CRAFTSBURY – Green Mountain Power (GMP) issued an interim report to the Public Utilities Commission in January indicating a significant setback to installing an Aircraft Detection Lighting System (ADLS) for the Kingdom Community Wind (KCW) site on the Lowell Mountains. The report was presented to the select board at its January meeting.
Preston Gregory, KCW supervisor, stated that recent “significant developments” warranted the update which appears to be another obstacle to installing an acceptable radar detection system on the mountain. The KCW site presents topographical challenges for a radar detection system, according to Kristin Kelly, director of communications at GMP.
Gregory stated in December that GMP had received a communication from Vestas, the manufacturer of the proposed ADLS, indicating that the current plan for KCW would not meet the required FAA radar standards. Vestas recently discovered that the planned turbine-mounted solution would have a smaller than anticipated radar range, and therefore would be unable to view the airspace required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), according to Gregory.
“Vestas also indicated that it could not mount its equipment on pre-existing cell towers or meteorological towers as had been planned,” he stated.
GMP was surprised by the recent information, according to Gregory, since “we had selected this ADLS product specifically because we had been previously advised by Vestas that this type of mounting was possible and early radar models of the site had all been positive, though testing of icing impact has been ongoing and unsuccessful to date.”
Kelly explained in an e-mail that the “knoll at the southern end of the site impacts visibility and is impossible to see through if currently available tech is mounted on existing infrastructure.”
“It (ADLS) must be able to see 3 nautical miles from the closest turbine and existing technology is unable to do that with current radar options.”
According to Kelly, the FAA first approved Vestas as a vendor for a system three years ago. “GMP has been working since 2015,” she stated, “because that’s when the FAA first started to approve technology that could be appropriate for the site.”
“In follow-up discussions with Vestas,” Gregory stated in his letter, “it has offered to deliver an ADLS system with appropriate radar coverage mounted on two new thirty-meter (90 feet) towers.”
“However, the location of these towers would likely experience significant permitting challenges,” he wrote, “as they would require what appear to be significant impacts to a Montane Yellow Birch Spruce Fir Forest and other natural resources that GMP has sought to avoid.”
GMP has been working with Vestas for three years to meet FAA requirements, limit environmental impacts and meet Condition 34 of the Certificate of Public Good, according to Gregory. Condition 34 seeks to limit the amount of time lights are on at the KCW site. GMP researched two other FAA-approved products, manufactured by Laufer Wind and Terma. Laufer Wind has since ceased operations. In considering Terma, discussions with the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources came to an impasse. Terma equipment had to be installed off the KCW site “that likely would create significant impacts to sensitive and high-quality environmental resources atop Eden Mountain,” according to Gregory.
Both Kelly and Gregory reiterated that GMP is committed to meeting its CPG obligations and installing light reducing technology for the KCW site. GMP makes 6-month progress reports to the Public Utilities Commission in meeting Condition 34 of the Certificate of Public Good that the company was awarded in developing the KCW site in 2011.
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