The sale of the 99-megawatt Granite Reliable Wind commercial farm has been given final approval by the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee.
The committee issued its order on Aug. 17, approving the transfer of the certificate of site and facility for the state’s largest wind farm.
The 33-turbine wind farm is currently owned by BAIF U.S. Renewable Power, a subsidiary of Brookfield Renewable Power, with Freshet Wind Energy holding a small share. When the transfer is complete, the entire wind farm will be owned by Tusk Wind Holdings, III, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Partners, owner of the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant.
The sale is part of a “much larger transaction” involving a portfolio of wind generation units totaling about 300 megawatts, including three in California according to documents filed with the Site Evaluation Committee.
Pointing out that the committee had approved a draft order allowing the transfer of the certificate at its July 26 hearing, Concord Attorney Doug Patch, representing the two corporations, had urged the committee to finalize the order as soon as possible to allow the other transactions to move forward.
Large energy projects in the state require a certificate of site and facility from the N.H. Site Evaluation Committee. The committee ruled the new owner had shown it has the financial, managerial and technical capabilities to own and operate the wind farm.
NextEra Energy currently owns 126 wind projects with more than 9,800 wind turbines and testified that its renewable energy program has raised about $11 billion in capital since 2014 to finance its growth and operations and currently has $1.6 billion available. NextEra is the owner of the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant.
The purchase price for the Granite Reliable Power wind farm will not be made public. The Site Evaluation Committee granted a joint request by the two petitioners to keep confidential the purchase and sales agreement, the complete financial statements, the operations and maintenance manual, and the administrative services agreement. The committee ruled disclosure of the financial and operational details of a private entity and the commercial terms governing the sale and operation of the wind farm would “objectively harm the joint petitioners’ competitive interests and negotiating positions with competitors, vendors and suppliers.”
“In contrast, the public interest in disclosure of the confidential, financial information contained in the proposed exhibits is slight,” the order continues. The Site Evaluation Committee also notes that counsel for the public from the N.H. Attorney General’s office has been appointed to protect the public interest and will have access to all the information withheld from public view.
But in an interview with North American Windpower, NextEra Energy CEO Jim Robo said the base purchase price for the four wind farms is $733 million.
Concerned that there was insufficient money in the decommissioning fund, the Site Evaluation Committee order said current rules require cost to be estimated without factoring in salvage value of the turbines. The order requires Tusk to provide an estimate of the full costs to remove the wind farm and fund the decommissioning fund “in an amount consistent with the conditions of the certificate.”
In addition, the order requires Tusk to re-estimate the decommissioning costs every five years and report the finding to the Coos County Administrator.
With 33 wind turbines strung along the ridgeline in the Phillips Brook watershed, the wind farm is the largest in the state. Most of the wind farm is in the unincorporated places of Dixville, Millsfield, Erving’s Location and Odell and falls under the jurisdiction of Coos County. Part of the wind farm is also within the town of Dummer.
The wind farm reached a 10-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement with the county that provides an option for a second 10 years. The 10 years will be up in 2022 and County Commissioner Paul Grenier said he is hopeful the county and new owner can reach an agreement on a second 10-year PILOT. He said he believes a PILOT agreement benefits both parties by avoiding the cost of a revaluation and the need to review complicated financial statements including renewable energy credit revenues.
According to the federal Department of Energy, the Granite Reliable Power wind farm is one of the first onshore wind farms to use a 3-megawatt wind turbine for electric generation. It was financed partly by a $169 million loan through the DOE’s Financial Institutions Partnership Program.
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