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Wind project developers waiting for PSB to sign off on project

DEERFIELD VALLEY- According to Iberdrola Renewables and the US Forest Service, pre-construction testing at the site of the potential Deerfield Wind Project began in mid-November. Work on the site in Readsboro and Searsburg involves testing the prospective wind turbine locations, determining where the access road connecting the turbines may go, as well as limited tree clearing. Construction of the Deerfield Wind Farm could begin this year. The company obtained its certificate of public good from the Public Service Board in 2009. However, Iberdrola cannot proceed with construction until it has heard from the Public Service Board about whether it is satisfied with additional compliance filings that the company has submitted.

In a letter dated July 22, 2015, the department of public service told the PSB that Condition 19 requires Deerfield Wind to implement a decommissioning plan that it had previously submitted. According to the letter,“The Department’s review indicates that Deerfield has not met this condition.” The DPS noted that the company had submitted a “Form of Letter of Credit,” referred to as a draft in its filing, but that in the eyes of the DPS, this was insufficient. “It is our position that the draft does not fully implement the Decommissioning Plan until the letter of credit is in place. The draft is in essence a blank form with typical terms and conditions for an irrevocable standby letter of credit but without specifics such as the issuer, effective dates and dollar amounts.”

On August 21, the DPS filed a second letter, asking for more time to review Deerfield Wind’s estimate of the cost of decommissioning the windmill project. The DPS noted that Deerfield Wind “did not specify whether it would separate the rebar and did not specify the disposal mechanism for the concrete rubble,” which the DPS noted might involve additional fees. The letter also noted that Deerfield Wind’s decommission estimate for removing the concrete foundations and transformer pads was the lowest of all decommission costs the department had seen for this type of work. The DPS requested additional time to “facilitate an independent review.”

On September 22, the Industrial Wind Action Group, (IWAG), which describes itself as an organization that “was formed to counteract the misleading information promulgated by the wind energy industry and various environmental groups,” filed a letter claiming that the original CPG was issued for a model of turbine that was much smaller than the ones that Deerfield Wind is currently proposing to erect. The turbine configuration and plan layout for the project have undergone substantial changes since the CPG was issued in 2009. According to the letter, some of the new turbines would stand as much as 26 feet taller than the ones that were originally submitted for consideration. IWAG noted that the company had made some effort to respond to concerns raised about the amount of sound produced by these new, larger turbines, but claimed that this response was merely, “piecemeal materials to supplement its compliance filing.”

IWGA further maintained, “It is within the Board’s jurisdiction to deny the change in turbine models. This is a key topic that should be examined at a technical hearing.” IWAG said that the aesthetic challenge posed by the newer turbines should also warrant a review.

In a letter to the board dated October 21, Deerfield Wind argued that IWAG’s letter of September 22 should be disregarded as it was submitted after a deadline to do so. “On September 22, 2015, Industrial Wind Action Group “ filed yet another letter with additional critiques of Deerfield Wind’s prior compliance filings. IWAG’s letter is untimely.” The letter from Deerfield Wind provided examples about a state agency that had made a late filing that had been denied consideration. “The Board has set clear deadlines in this docket for other parties to file comments on Deerfield Wind’s filings, the most recent of which expired two months before IWAG’s latest letter. IWAG’s comments on the turbine model change and visual aesthetics . . . were filed nearly three months past the June 30 deadline-a deadline that the Board already enlarged at IWAG’s request. The Board should disregard all of these new IWAG comments.” The company said that the concerns raised by IWAG had actually been addressed in the compliance filings and said that the IWAG’s letter “retreads ground that has already been exhaustively covered in this proceeding.”

On December 8, Deerfield Wind’s attorneys filed a letter requesting quick action and that the PSB render a decision on the company’s compliance filings. “ Deerfield Wind requests that the Board take action as soon as feasible in order to allow Deerfield Wind to make the necessary corporate decisions-financial, engineering, procurement, and otherwise-that are necessary to commence construction once all Board approvals have been received. In particular, Deerfield Wind would need to make a substantial commitment to engineering and procurement in early 2016, on the order of millions of dollars, in order for the Project to commence construction late in 2016. As the Board can appreciate, such a commitment of financial resources cannot be made in the absence of the Board determining that Deerfield Wind’s compliance filings meet the terms of the CPG.”

No date has been set for the board’s decision.