Georgia Mountain Community Wind, the four-turbine operation that straddles a Milton-Georgia ridgeline, was sold to a Manhattan-based renewable energy investment firm in December, federal filings show.
Greenbacker Renewable Energy Company LLC purchased the farm for $25.1 million in a deal that closed December 21. It’s the company’s first commercial wind project in Vermont, company director David Sher said.
“We like assets in Vermont, because we do have a base of a number of solar assets,” Sher said, noting Greenbacker’s nine arrays in the state, called Green Maple Solar. “We wanted to diversify our assets to include wind.”
According to documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Greenbacker has invested just under $242 million in 196 assets across 20 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Its purchase of Georgia Wind increases its wind generation portfolio to 55 megawatts, the filings say.
Greenbacker’s renewables have an average 16 years remaining in purchase power agreements, the SEC filings say. Operational since December 2012, Georgia Wind has 20 years remaining in its fixed-price contract with Burlington Electric.
Georgia Wind majority owner David Blittersdorf said he and co-owner Jim Harrison, of Georgia’s Harrison Concrete, have discussed selling for a couple years. They acted on it after contacting Greenbacker, a company Blittersdorf said is committed to reversing climate change.
“Greenbacker turned out to be a great company to buy it,” he said. “It was really not about retiring and getting out of business – it was accelerating development of renewables, because a lot is happening in renewables these days.”
Blittersdorf, who founded NRG Systems and AllEarth Renewables, said he now wants to deploy his capital to other renewable projects.
“This was a good first project. I had never built a wind farm before, and it turned out to be OK,” he said with a laugh.
The project wasn’t always met with enthusiasm from its neighbors, however. Residents have complained the turbines’ noise prevents them from sleeping, an allegation GMCW characterized as “innuendo and rumor” in filings to the Vermont Public Service Board.
The Vt. Department for Public Service has recorded 77 complaints about Georgia Wind’s sound levels, 76 of which come from just three households. Last January, the PSB denied the neighbors’ request for relief.
Sher said residents shouldn’t worry that an out-of-state company owns Georgia Wind.
“Obviously we want to be a good member of the community,” he said, describing Greenbacker’s approach to public relations and dealing with complaints. “Most of the performance and noise is related to proper maintenance of the asset.”
Sher added the company’s fleet manager, Michael Murphy, lives in Montpelier and can respond to issues. Greenbacker can remotely monitor the turbines’ performance and has already sent engineers to inspect the operation.
Greenbacker co-chairman Rob Brennan belongs to the UVM Foundation Board of Directors, comprised of UVM’s biggest donors.
Blittersdorf said these Vermont connections made Greenbacker more attractive.
“There’s a lot of local, which is why we consider them to be an ideal purchaser,” he said. “They know the area; they know Vermont. We wanted to have someone that really cared about Vermont and wanted to keep things local.”
Indeed, this was one of Harrison’s primary goals when the project was in development. In an interview with the Indy in 2010, he called the agreement with BED a “milestone” and used as many local contractors in the turbines’ construction as possible, the project’s website says.
Contacted last week, Harrison declined comment, deferring to Blittersdorf.
The sale also keeps Georgia Wind’s tax agreements with both Milton and Georgia in place. The arrangement requires GMCW to pay property taxes based on fair market value, plus a supplemental payment if the primary tax bill doesn’t exceed $45,000, the Indy reported in 2012.
The agreement is based on 10 megawatts of generation, which Georgia Wind produces with its four turbines. It would change should GMCW build the fifth turbine allowed by its state permit.
Sher said Greenbacker has no current plans to expand the operation.
Even though he’s no longer an owner, Harrison will continue to profit from Georgia Wind: His family rents a 600-acre plot to the company on the Milton side. Another company owns the remaining 445 acres in Georgia. Harrison declined to share details of the lease.
Blittersdorf said residents won’t notice any difference now that the sale has gone through.
“Everything just keeps on going,” he said. “Once these projects, whether it’s a solar project down the street or wind farm, [get going], they just capture the free power of the wind every day, and there they go.”
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