After a decade in operation, the 33-turbine, 99-megawatt Granite Reliable Power commercial wind farm in Coos County is about to be sold, and the buyer and seller want to keep the purchase and sale agreement from the public.
The sale must first be approved by the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee, which on July 26 held a public hearing in Concord.
On May 3, Brookfield Renewable Power, the majority owner, and NextEra Energy, the prospective buyer, filed a joint petition for a transfer of membership interests, following a purchase and sale agreement the two entities entered into on April 17.
If the sale is approved, a 100-percent ownership share of the wind farm, which the state in 2012 assessed at $217 million, would be transferred to Tusk Wind Holdings LLC, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy.
In 2009, after a series of public hearings that draw some area residents and groups that included the Appalachian Mountain Club and Industrial Wind Action Group opposing the project and arguing it would degrade sensitive high-elevation areas and impact wildlife species, the SEC approved the wind farm, which was then majority-owned by Noble Environmental Power LLC.
In 2011, a 90 percent ownership share was transferred to Brookfield Renewable Power, with 10 percent going to Freshet Wind Energy LLC.
According to the petition for transfer, NextEra Energy Partners was formed in 2014 to buy, manage, and own contracted clean energy projects.
NextEra currently owns 4,855 megawatts of wind-generating facilities and 975 megawatts of solar generating facilities and has a total company enterprise value of $21 billion.
On June 23, the office of the New Hampshire Attorney General appointed Senior Assistant Attorney General Allen Brooks as counsel for the public on the proposed sale.
To date, Brooks has not filed any motions in the SEC docket.
Along with the petition for ownership transfer, NextEra and Brookfield filed a motion for protective order and confidential treatment seeking to seal from public disclosure the purchase and sale agreement and a statement of Tusk’s assets and liabilities, arguing both are “confidential, proprietary, and competitively sensitive commercial and financial information.”
On July 9, the two companies filed another motion for confidential treatment regarding two additional documents, the proposed form of agreement for the operation and maintenance between GRP and NextEra and the proposed administrative services agreement between them.
On July 28, the SEC granted the request to keep the four documents from public disclosure on the condition that Brooks, as counsel for the public, has access to the complete and un-redacted copies.
According to county property tax cards, the current total assessed value of the wind farm (the turbines are separate from the land) is $113,083,546, based on the value given to the county by an appraiser with the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration in 2007.
That is the assessment that an annual $495,000 payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement between Brookfield and Coos County was based on.
Appraising the value of the wind farm, though, has proved tricky.
In 2012, the DRA set for the wind farm an appraised utility tax valuation of $217 million.
That figure would have led to an unprecedented spike in the total equalized valuation of Dixville, where the Balsams Grand Resort is located, and Millsfield, meaning a jump in taxes for property owners in the two places.
In 2014, the county commissioners appealed a decision by the New Hampshire Board of Tax and Land Appeals that upheld the total equalized valuation set by the DRA for Dixville and Millsfield.
In 2014, the state agreed to drop the value and then-Gov. Maggie Hassan signed a bill that July to keep the value of the wind park in Coos County at $113 million.
During their meeting on July 21, the three-member Coos County Commission held a public hearing on the proposed sale.
Douglas Patch, representing NextEra, and Harold Pachios, representing Brookfield, presented information on the upcoming transfer.
The wind farm, following a sale, would still continue as Granite Reliable Power and a discussion on the payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement will occur after the transfer of ownership, said Patch.
Notice must be made 180 days prior to the last payment date.
The commissioners said they want what’s best for the county and its residents.
On Tuesday, The Caledonian-Record reached out to county commissioners Tom Brady and Paul Grenier via email to ask if them if they will likely be considering another PILT agreement with the new owner, and if so, if any agreement would be executed before or after the real value is known or before or after the DRA sets the total appraised utility tax valuation.
No response was received before press time.
The wind farm in Coos is located in the unincorporated places of Dixville, Ervings Location, Millsfield, and Odell, and the incorporated town of Dummer and stretches across 15 miles of ridgeline from Odell to Dixville Peak.
In September 2011, the U.S. Department of Energy issued a $169 partial loan guarantee to finance the project, which reached full commercial operations in February 2012.
According to the DOE, the wind-generating facility prevents 130,000 metric tons of carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere each year.
In 2011, Brookfield representatives said 82 of the 99 megawatts were under 15- and 20-year contracts, with Green Mountain Power agreeing to purchase 32 percent of the output and Central Vermont Public Service 50.3 percent.
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