SWANTON – Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CTDEEP) has given pre-emptive approval to 25 renewable energy projects, including Swanton Wind.
Swanton Wind’s Public Service Board (PSB) application, submitted in September, identified two potential buyers for the project’s power.
The first was a power purchase agreement, or PPA, with Vermont Electric Power Producers Inc. (VEPPI), keeping the power in-state. The second was a bid response to CTDEEP for Class I renewable energy resources between two and 20 megawatts (MW). Swanton Wind is expected to generate up to 20 MW. A Hartford Business listing of the 25 projects CTDEEP selected identifies the project’s capacity as 17.5 MW.
Swanton Wind’s PSB application discusses the project’s power distribution plans through the testimony of John Zimmerman, the owner of Vermont Environmental Research Associates (VERA).
In his testimony, Zimmerman said the project’s “preference is to keep the renewable attributes of the power its facility produces in Vermont for the benefit of Vermont’s electric utility customers and in line with the state’s renewable energy goals. If Swanton Wind is selected for a PPA under the Connecticut DEEP [Request for Proposals] or ultimately with alternative off-takers yet to be identified if Vermont utilities do not represent a viable market for the RECs [Renewable Energy Credits], they will be sold out of state to power marketing firms, or end users directly.”
Zimmerman noted in his testimony that Green Mountain Power initially showed interest in the project, but ultimately suggested Swanton Wind reach out to “off-takers in southern New England,” and that the project also approached the Burlington Electric Department regarding the possibility of purchasing its output. “Neither utility chose to pursue additional discussions on a bi-lateral agreement,” Zimmerman’s testimony states.
Swanton Wind’s general attorney, Anthony Iarrapino, emphasized that Travis and Ashley Belisle, the project’s developers, would still prefer to sell the energy and its RECs to Vermont utilities. “There’s still something in play,” Iarrapino said.
In the meantime, “it makes sense for the project to explore options helping the New England regional grid, of which Vermont is a part,” Iarrapino said.
He also stressed the project’s potential role in fighting climate change. “The attitude of some people opposing the project about energy is really confusing,” Iarrapino said, “especially in a place like Franklin County, where people have always used a working landscape to serve their customers’ needs. Not all the milk produced in Franklin County is being drunk by people in Franklin County or even Vermont. Not all Franklin County timber goes to Franklin County homes… Rational economies have always looked at exporting as a valuable economic possibility.”
Iarrapino suggested viewing renewable energy as a value-added product.
“It’s a little confusing for people to have this attitude that it’s alright for us to use the market at an industrial scale for dairy, or logging… but when it comes to harvesting wind, it all has to stay here,” he said. “If the people involved in this debate over Swanton Wind take climate change seriously, they have to be realistic about our responsibilities to fight it.”
At a Northwest Regional Planning Commission presentation on its still-in-development Regional Energy Plan in St. Albans City in October, core opponents of the project, chiefly residents of the area around its proposed site, questioned why they must sacrifice to meet the state’s energy goals, let alone those of the country.
“Vermont is not an island,” Iarrapino responded. “When it comes to electricity, we’re part of a grid. Sometimes that means being an importer. Sometimes it means being an exporter.”
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