Shumlin calls on grid operator to stop cutting Lowell wind power

Twenty-one 450-foot-tall wind turbines run along the Lowell Mountains ridgeline for 4 miles. Photo by Andrew Stein/VTDigger

Twenty-one 450-foot-tall wind turbines run along the Lowell Mountains ridgeline for 4 miles. Photo by Andrew Stein/VTDigger

Gov. Peter Shumlin is urging the New England power grid operator to stop limiting production from Green Mountain Power’s Lowell Mountain wind project during peak demand times for electricity.

New England and Vermont power grid officials say that GMP’s 21-turbine wind project was ordered to reel in generation during a recent heat wave because the project is incomplete and is connected to a weak point in the grid.

This issue came to a head recently when New England’s demand for power hit historic highs. ISO New England — the grid operator — called on GMP to curtail power from the 64.5 megawatt (mW) project and instead fire up diesel generators across the state. Vermont Public Radio first highlighted the event.

July 18 marked the fourth-highest peak in ISO’s history, as New Englanders demanded 27,377 mW. During that heat wave, GMP spokeswoman Dottie Schnure said the Lowell wind project had the ability to generate roughly 45 mW per hour (mWh), but ISO allowed it to generate between 15 and 20 mWh.

Schnure said ISO curtailed the turbines numerous times during the week of July 18, while the grid’s load peaked above 24,000 mW. At the same time ISO curtailed the wind project, it also called on GMP to fire up its four jet turbines and six diesel engines located elsewhere around the state to match the high demand.

Instead of using wind power, GMP was required to use more carbon-heavy and expensive fuels because ISO officials say the infrastructure used to transmit power from Lowell is insufficient.

Darren Springer, deputy commissioner of the Public Service Department, said the curtailment situation is bad for ratepayer’s pocketbooks, and it is inhibiting the state from moving quickly toward its Comprehensive Energy Plan goal of drawing 90 percent of the state’s energy from renewable sources by 2050.

“In New England, we’re looking at wind in the very low digits, and we’re having these issues,” Springer said. “If we’re going to get to where we need to go, we need a grid and a grid operator that is willing to do everything they can to integrate these renewable sources.”

On Friday, Shumlin wrote to ISO New England CEO Gordon van Welie, encouraging him and his team to get on the same page with the state of Vermont.

“Vermont has a clear preference for renewable resources and would have preferred that the local renewable energy produced by this utility-owned resource had been used to meet regional power needs in the Northeast Kingdom and surrounding communities where homes and businesses were also experiencing a period of high demand last week,” Shumlin wrote.

Stephen Rourke, vice president of system planning for ISO New England, said the problem with the northern tier of Vermont’s grid is that there are numerous large-scale renewable energy projects feeding into a low voltage section of the transmission network. Intermittent power from Hydro-Quebec, and the Lowell and Sheffield wind projects is funneled through this older part of the grid.

“It’s really pretty simple: We can’t set the system up so that an overload would occur,” Rourke said. “There’s a limit to the amount of power we can transfer out of that area. … We always work to make sure the system runs in a reliable way. Having an event that could lead to a loss of customers is not a reliable outcome. So, we have to limit the amount of energy that the generators up in that part of the state are injecting into the network.”

Kerrick Johnson, the vice president of external affairs for VELCO, Vermont’s transmission utility, said on July 18, after a heavy rain the night before, the power coming in from the hydro dams in Quebec was at the interface’s maximum capacity.

“You have too much energy trying to get on too few lines,” Johnson said. “What happens is a voltage collapse, and you’d have to centrally cut off that area so that it wouldn’t black out other areas. Likely what would be one of the first negative impacts is that you’d start frying equipment.”

Another factor contributing to ISO’s frequent curtailments of the Lowell wind project is that GMP has not yet completed the construction of a synchronous condenser, which will be used to even out voltage from the intermittent wind plant. GMP doesn’t expect to complete this construction until the end of the year.

Marcia Blomberg, spokeswoman for ISO, said that without the condenser the Lowell project would continue to be the first project in the region to be curtailed.

“The ISO is operating the regional power grid in compliance with mandatory federal reliability standards. It is not possible to operate all of the resources in that area and remain in compliance with these standards under current system conditions,” Blomberg said. “A facility that has not completed system upgrades identified in its interconnection requirements would be backed down before other facilities in an area where curtailment is needed to ensure reliability.”

Blomberg said that another wind project in Vermont and one in Maine were also curtailed during Friday’s near record peak.

The reason?

“Transmission limitations,” she said.


Andrew Stein

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98 Comments on "Shumlin calls on grid operator to stop cutting Lowell wind power"

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Rod West
2 years 11 months ago

I believe that we sold all that power (renewable generation credits) out-of-state. Why is the curtailment bad for Vermont ratepayers? Maybe not so good for GMP’s shareholders though…

2 years 11 months ago
Rod, GMP Made Whole, Others Pay: Whereas Lowell Mountain will have significantly greater levelized energy costs than the 10c/kWh and the sale of RECs will be less due to less wind energy production, this would not affect GMP’s bottom line, as it would roll ALL its costs regarding Lowell Mountain mostly into its household rate schedules, subject to PSB approval, after pro forma hearings.  Because the business records of this heavily-subsidized project are “proprietary”, it is likely, the lay public will never learn what the real costs were, and legislators do not dare investigate lest they be seen as less… Read more »
Matt Fisken
2 years 11 months ago
“As a regulated utility, [GMP] is entitled to a minimum return on assets, no matter how imprudent its decisions were.” …also the case for wireless smart meters which are: a) heavily subsidized by the Feds b) being installed “whole hog” with the purported promise of stabilizing climate change (saving us from ourselves) c) part of a plan to produce, transmit and sell MORE electricity than before d) are making people sick with pulsed frequencies that are completely novel to our human experience on this planet e) causing people to consider moving away or spend money to mitigate their exposures f)… Read more »
Patricia Crocker
2 years 11 months ago

Well said.

John Greenberg
2 years 11 months ago
Willem Post writes: “As a regulated utility, it is entitled to a minimum return on assets, no matter how imprudent its decisions were.” I’m no expert in utility law, but from all I understand about the topic, this totally misrepresents utility law and practice. Utility ratemaking cases essentially require that all assets be prudent, used and useful (all of which are terms of art in utility law). To cite just two examples, the PSB refused to allow CVPS and GMP to earn a return on their investment in Seabrook when it determined that the investment was no longer prudent. The… Read more »
2 years 11 months ago

John,
I wrote: As a regulated utility, it is entitled to a minimum return on assets, no matter how imprudent its decisions were.

I was referring to the Lowell Mountain fiasco, approved by the PSB.

After it was approved by the PSB, GMP it entitled to its legally allowed return on assets, unless GMP is willfully negligent regarding the project.

John Greenberg
2 years 11 months ago
Willem: “After it was approved by the PSB, GMP it entitled to its legally allowed return on assets, unless GMP is willfully negligent regarding the project.” I hope someone better versed in utility law than I am will weigh in here, but my understanding is that your clarification, which I understand to suggest that GMP can earn the return indefinitely and regardless of facts OTHER THAN willful negligence, remains false. GMP is allowed its return until the next rate case. On that, we certainly agree. If the project is then challenged as imprudent, or not used and useful, the Board… Read more »
Townsend Peters
2 years 11 months ago

If ISO-NE is right that GMP should have foreseen curtailment, then the PSB can disallow GMP’s costs related to curtailment as imprudent. That assumes we have a consumer advocate willing and able to make the case.

Matt Fisken
2 years 11 months ago
Unfortunately, “preferences” and physics aren’t always compatible. I’m reminded of the late Noel Perrin who may have been the first Vermonter to own a road-legal electric car, who also had solar panels installed on his roof when they were still really expensive and net metering was not so lucrative. Ned’s commute to work each day included a stretch of town-owned road in New Hampshire that was relatively flat (good for lightweight, low-power cars), but very pot-holed and frost-heaved (not good). I don’t how long it took for his pleas to the town to level and repave this particular road to… Read more »
Cynthia Browning
2 years 11 months ago

Is it the “synchronous condenser” that is to cost $10 million, which will be added to the GMP base of capital investment, and for which the ratepayers will have to pay?

My understanding is that everyone was aware of the problem of limited transmission capacity before the Lowell Mountain project was constructed. But nothing was done to deal with it.

Rep. Cynthia Browning, Arlington

2 years 11 months ago

Cynthia,

You are quite right. Did not some legislators talk about this among themselves, or at least shake their heads?

DPS, PSB, GMP, Klein, et al, all knew the NEK grid is not capable of taking the variable wind energy, but pushed for heavily-subsidized wind turbines on ridge lines anyway, because of fulfillment of some PLAN.

Randy Koch
2 years 11 months ago

What conclusions are we to draw from this performance of our regulatory system? What does it mean that the PSB, the DPS, and perhaps the V-cheerleaders (VPIRG, VNRC, CLF, etc) knew the transmission system was deficient? Is the condenser a real fix? Once it is installed, are there other “surprises” in store?

Guy Page
2 years 11 months ago

Rep. Browning –

Yes it is my understanding that the synchronous condenser costs $10 million, and will be installed by late this year. The condenser is expected to fix most of the problem, but not all; there may still be some curtailments, ISO says. I expect that in one way or another, sooner or later, the ratepayer will get the bill. That’s how the utility works.

As for knowing ahead of time but doing nothing – well, the statehouse is not immune to hubris and politically-motivated blindness, as you well know.

2 years 11 months ago
As Matt Fisken says in his last paragraph: “It will be interesting to see how much money it takes….” Interesting to whom? Forget about the relative chump change involved with dynamiting mountaintops to build wind turbines that are all too frequently curtailed because of a lack of understanding or planning for the generation and transmission of electricity on the part of the Shumlin administration and Vermont legislature. Lets go to the semi-serious money, semi-serious at least in the minds of the politicians. We just heard this week that it’s going to cost a staggering $427 million dollars to set up… Read more »
Dave Stevens
2 years 11 months ago
Its certainly frustrating that renewables were limited(again) during last weeks peak demand time while ISO is demanding carbon-rich generation in it’s place. So I’m guessing that this particular issue, that being an inadequate grid would effectively deter developing new wind generation projects in these areas of the state. If I remember previous news briefs correctly, “synchronous condensers” don’t seem to be a very cost effective measure. So does this open up the potential for locating wind generation in more populated areas of the state such as Chittenden county where the grid can handle higher voltage? You could argue that would… Read more »
Don Peterson
2 years 11 months ago
Dana: Curtailment has emerged as an issue because it points to the fraudulent nature of our collective attempt to rein in global carbon buildup. Vermont is an especially egregious example of such an attempt. THe carbon rich generation you mention is abetted by the double dealing of Vermont’s policies, which give utilities in this state a chance to double dip into the morass of competing carbon reduction policies of other states. Those policies are written by the industy players, not by concerned environmentalists. Thanks to VtDigger, a consensus is emerging from the so called “curtailment hawks”, and this might be… Read more »
John Greenberg
2 years 11 months ago

Dale Stevens asks: “So does this open up the potential for locating wind generation in more populated areas of the state such as Chittenden county where the grid can handle higher voltage?”

Only if there is a wind resource there to be exploited. It should be obvious — though it appears not to be — that wind power can be generated only where there is a sufficient wind resource.

2 years 11 months ago

John,
“It should be obvious that wind power can be generated only where there is a sufficient wind resource.”

Wind energy can indeed be generated where there is wind, but can it be done ECONOMICALLY?

I is obvious, to even the most obtuse people, generating wind energy on ridge lines in Vermont is an economic fiasco (as it is in Maine), because actual CFs of about 0.25 are nowhere near promised Lowell CFs of 0.338.

http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/169521/wind-turbine-energy-capacity-less-estimated

2 years 11 months ago
Andrew, “Gov. Peter Shumlin is urging the New England power grid operator to stop limiting production from Green Mountain Power’s Lowell Mountain wind project during peak demand times for electricity.” ISO-NE HAS to limit Lowell, Sheffield, Georgia wind turbine energy to maintain a stable grid at all times, especially during stressful conditions, such as peak demands on hot days. Shumlin, Blittersdorf, Schnure, the PSB, the DPS, Klein, et al., are the disturbers approving and feeding variable wind energy into the NEK grid they KNEW could not take the energy; the $10.5 synchronous-condensers facility that smoothes voltages, required by ISO-NE to… Read more »
Annette Smith
2 years 11 months ago
Don’t blame GMP for building in an area that couldn’t handle the load, blame ISO-NE. Give GMP a break for being on a learning curve. That’s their excuse and they’re sticking to it. On Friday, GMP filed testimony in the CPG noise violation case, claiming ignorance about winter operating conditions: “One aspect of wintertime turbine operation that we originally had not anticipated, and had not been discussed during turbine procurement, was the impact on sound levels of snow accumulation on the blades of the turbine.” [full testimony here: http://vce.org/Castonguay Testimony.pdf] Yep, GMP’s engineer says they didn’t realize snow (like ice)… Read more »
Kathy Leonard
2 years 11 months ago
We are just beginning to realize the effect on wildlife. Vital avian/mammal/amphibian communication is being disturbed in significant wildlife habitats across the globe. No one is looking at the cumulative effect these rapidly proliferating power plants are having on wildlife, from noise disruption leading to dispersal and stress – to habitat fragmentation – to collision and “take permits” which in addition to bats now includes American Condor, Whooping Crane, golden eagles and piping plover. (We protect these species in some locations yet sanction their loss in others..doesn’t make financial or biological sense) . We are full on into the sixth… Read more »
2 years 11 months ago
Willem, everyday we hear more, making it appear that Governor Shumlin, etal have painted themselves into a corner with Comprehensive Energy Plan and the accompanying renewable energy strategy. Now we see the Governor write what can be described as a letter of desperation to ISO-NE asking asking that it accept power from the NEK wind turbines. It is important that you keep putting out the technical facts on these renewal energy issues for all to see. Hopefully, our elected representatives in Montpelier will soon decide that its time for them to begin asking questions of the Governor and his Administration.… Read more »
John Greenberg
2 years 11 months ago
Peter Yankowski writes as though the Comprehensive Energy Plan from 2011 is a radical departure from Vermont’s previous energy strategies. It isn’t. The previous plan from 1998 — well before Peter Shumlin had anything to do with it — promotes a strategy of reducing overall use, shifting from fossil fuels to more efficient and sustainable resources, and heavy promotion of renewable resources, just like its successor in 2011. Page 10 of the overview (http://publicservice.vermont.gov/sites/psd/files/Pubs_Plans_Reports/State_Plans/Comp_Energy_Plan/1998/CEP%201998%20overview.pdf) offers the following goals to be achieved by 2020: “Total energy use decreases 16.2%,” Transportation energy use could be cut by 29.8% cumulatively through 2020 compared… Read more »
2 years 11 months ago
John, “There’s nothing the least bit odd about that, since virtually the whole world has set itself very similar goals thanks to the more and more visible environmental constraints against pursuing the old paths.” The USDOE/EIA latest projections are significantly at variance with the above statement. The use of fossil fuels will significantly INCREASE between now and 2040. See figure 2 of the report. http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/ieo/more_highlights.cfm It is obvious, the world has NOT set itself goals “very similar” to Vermont. Vermont’s RE folks in various organizations live in an RE fairyland of their own making. No state in the world, not… Read more »
John Greenberg
2 years 11 months ago
Willem: “The USDOE/EIA latest projections are significantly at variance with the above statement.” My statement clearly concerns GOALS. The EIA projections are about attainment. These are two entirely distinct things. I didn’t say — nor, for that matter do the CEPs — that the goals laid out WILL be achieved; the point of laying thaem out is to express the intent that they SHOULD be achieved and to set forth the steps required to accomplish that aim. You believe that our energy future SHOULD be nuclear; I believe that it should not. Whether it WILL be or not is an… Read more »
2 years 11 months ago
John, “In short, the point you raise is altogether different from the one I was making.” “There’s nothing the least bit odd about that, since virtually the whole world has set itself very similar goals thanks to the more and more visible environmental constraints against pursuing the old paths.” Virtually the whole world has NOT set very similar goals as the CEP. The CEP is more extreme than even Germany or California’s goals, by far; 90% of ALL energy from renewables by 2050. It is nice/fee-good to set it as a goal, but it is unrealistic fantasizing, considering the latest… Read more »
John Greenberg
2 years 11 months ago
Willem: Three points: 1) Clearly, I didn’t make myself clear when I wrote: “virtually the whole world has set itself very similar goals ….” What I was referring to was not the specific number in the 2011 CEP, but my own recitation of what I believe is the core of Vermont’s goals over decades: namely, “a strategy of reducing overall use, shifting from fossil fuels to more efficient and sustainable resources, and heavy promotion of renewable resources.” 2) That said, there is nothing “extreme,” about setting a goal of 90%. You point out yourself that Vermont sits next Quebec, which… Read more »
Matt Fisken
2 years 11 months ago
Yes, John, the current plan does build upon the previous plan. It may not be a “radical departure” (your words, not Peter’s), but it does stray from the original direction, which is likely a result of the cultural paradigm shifts regarding climate change and peak oil which have taken place since 1998. For example (from each plan summary): 1998: Improving transportation energy use. As indicated throughout this Plan, transportation is the largest energy use in Vermont. Transportation offers the greatest opportunities for more efficient energy use, reduced emissions, and reduced reliance on oil. Giant steps can be taken toward the… Read more »
John Greenberg
2 years 11 months ago
Responses to Matt Fisken: 1) The words “radical departure” are indeed, mine. Did I suggest otherwise? What is the significance that you (and Peter Yankowski below – “Matt Fisken for catching sly old John with another one of his word/meaning twisting tricks”) seem to see in this phrase? I must be REALLY sly, since I have no idea what you think is the devious content of these words. 2) Obviously, the 2 plans are not identical. There are 2 large reasons for this you seem to overlook. One is that since 1998, many of the things the plan called for… Read more »
Matt Fisken
2 years 11 months ago
John, thanks for the response. As usual, your comment is pointed and fairly reasonable. I appreciate the intensity you bring to these discussions, even if our views aren’t identical. re: “that’s an incredibly cheap shot.” If others feel the same way, I’m happy to apologize. I think that your tendency to assume what others are implying in their comments is not helpful. Maybe it’s just your way of engaging with people? You write, “what [Matt is] really suggesting is that the State should do NO planning.” This is not the case at all. I think I was pretty clear in… Read more »
John Greenberg
2 years 11 months ago
Matt: I confess that I do interpret the words you write to mean what you actually say. If that’s a sin, then I am certainly guilty of it. When you now argue that saying “that giant leap ahead four decades risks alienating those who are trying to figure out how to pay their bills and put food on the table THIS WEEK,” means “not … people “who can’t look ahead more than a week”,” but “people (the majority of Vermonters) who will never have the means to buy a hybrid/electric car, super-insulate their home, install a solar array, convert their… Read more »
Carl Werth
2 years 11 months ago

“I confess that I do interpret the words you write to mean what you actually say. If that’s a sin, then I am certainly guilty of it.”

Wow, John! I do not want to take any side here, but I am not sure I have ever read anything more pompous here than that line above.

Don Peterson
2 years 11 months ago

Nice to see the Governor vs ISO NE engineer face off. It begins to seem like a lot of Vermont’s energy policy is wishful thinking. “Build it and they will come” was a movie, Mr. Shumlin, not an energy policy….

walter moses
2 years 11 months ago
What a sham and fraud this whole GMP story is. Remember the failure to pay back the ratepayers when CVPS was bought at a premium price? The proceeds ended up where? Even a representative from VPIRG told me that that was a slight of hand with the cooperation of the governor and his lackeys in the legislature. He was described as a “slippery fella” even by the VPIRG guy. We need to get rid of Shumlin. I am an independent voter and I voted for this guy. Also, we need to get rid of the present PSB, sooner the better.
rosemarie jackowski
2 years 11 months ago

Walter…Thanks for reminding us of the 21 MILLION dollars that are owed to us. Too soon, too many forget.

Kathy Nelson
2 years 11 months ago
Wow, some of the corporate elite go whining to the governor because they think their toys are not being properly respected and Petey whips out a letter to ISO demanding an accounting for its actions. Too bad he couldn’t have whipped out a letter telling Iberdrola to bug off when he took the 22 minutes to hear what the people of Grafton had to say. The Lowell wind project was never completed because they were told they would have grid problems before even one turbine was put up. I’ll post a link to the Mankousky (ISO engineer) testimony if anyone… Read more »
2 years 11 months ago

Thanks for writing, Kathy. Yes, comments in which you have engaged in ad hominem attacks have been deleted. Anne Galloway, editor

Coleman Dunnar
2 years 11 months ago
” Springer said. “If we’re going to get to where we need to go, we need a grid and a grid operator that is willing to do everything they can to integrate these renewable sources.” Rumor has it that the next move of the Shumlin administration is to introduce legislation next session to repeal the laws of physics. Why not they were able to repeal the laws of basic economics. “On Friday, Shumlin wrote to ISO New England CEO Gordon van Welie, encouraging him and his team to get on the same page with the state of Vermont.” Am I… Read more »
2 years 11 months ago
Coleman, While running for governor, Shulman had the audacity to say Germany was getting 30% of its energy from PV solar, whereas, in fact, it was about 2% at that time; now it is about 4.5%, after – spending several hundred billion euros in subsidies and feed-in tariffs since 2000, and – driving industry OUT of Germany because of high energy costs and grid instabilities. It was said he “misspoke”. Vermont’s RE folks in various organizations live in an RE fairyland of their own making. No state in the world, not even Germany or California, has a goal to have… Read more »
Moshe Braner
2 years 11 months ago
Please, all journalists covering energy issues, please learn to use correct units. Otherwise the numbers quoted are meaningless or ambiguous. There is no such thing as “megawatts per hour”, any more than a car can travel “65 mph per minute”! A “watt” is a unit of power, not energy. Power means energy per unit time. The time unit is implicit*. A 100-watt light bulb does not use “100 watts per hour”. It simply uses 100 watts, at any moment, for any length of time. Over 2 hours it uses 200 watt-hours (that’s watts TIMES hours), or one fifth of a… Read more »
2 years 11 months ago

Andrew,

Great article, lots of good comments. Please note:

It is MWh (megawatthour), not mWh which means milliwatthour
It is MW (megawatt), not mW which means milliwatt.
It is kWh (kilpwatthour)

Craig Kneeland
2 years 11 months ago

I learned that metric abbreviations for values greater that one are capitalized, while those for less than one, are not. If we wanted to abbreviate Kilowatt Hours of energy we would use the abbreviation of KWH.

Matt Fisken
2 years 11 months ago

It seems that rule doesn’t always apply. Maybe because there is no fractional unit that starts with “k”…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kilowatt_hour

2 years 11 months ago

Matt/Craig,

Most teachers in high school or college have little or no working experience in industry and are likely not familiar with the way engineering professionals and scientists express units.

The units I showed in my comment are used in engineering and science and by the DPS.

Lawyers, legislators, press reporters, and assorted other people may invent their own designations, which yield confusion, as shown by Andrew Stein.

Cynthia Browning
2 years 11 months ago
It is my hope that the structure and operations of the Department of Public Service and the Public Service Board and the processes for setting electricity rates will be up for effective study and revision during this legislative session. It is well known that a regulated industry tends to “capture” the agencies and legislators who regulate it. The goal of establishing renewable energy sources should not be used to justify imposing all of the risks on the ratepayers while the private corporation reaps the rewards. Any time a large corporation and a government work closely together ordinary people should watch… Read more »
2 years 11 months ago
Cynthia, Because of the RE subsidies, all sorts of shenanigans take place behind the scenes, more so than is normally the case. “Approving” wind turbines on ridge lines and the stolen $21 million is just the tip of the iceberg. Please read this report and tell me if mitigating climate change is at all possible or likely. http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/ieo/more_highlights.cfm Cynthia, there is no point continuing to tilt at wind mills. It is best to PREPARE for climate change by – moving from flood plains and other vulnerable areas, and – increasing the size of drainage ditches and culverts, and – building… Read more »
Stan Hopson
2 years 11 months ago

A Democrat legislator with a D next to her name talking common sense is such a breath of fresh air. Cynthia Browning, I admire you for your what qualifies as absolutely bold leadership in your caucus. From health care to wind power, I’ve watched you ask the tough questions even thou few in your majority party care to answer.

Browning’s a throwback to when the Democrat Party was just left of center and not over the ledge. Vermonters would be well served by a more balanced approach from the Cynthia Brownings of the world.

Jay Davis
2 years 11 months ago

Some here have really cut down a forest, when only one tree was defective.
The Vermont Wind project destroyed a part of Vermont’s environment. The mills generate noise. They are a good investment because tax breaks are awarded those who build them
The rate payers be damned. Well, why is this surprising anyone?

Michael Colby
2 years 11 months ago

They’ll never produce enough wind to blow away the stink of corruption here. Let’s hope the investigations begin soon. Earth to Sorrell, come in Sorrell.

2 years 11 months ago

John, your comments that the Shumlin’s 2011 CEP is basically in line with past CEPs may be comforting to you, but it doesn’t change the fact that Shumlin owns this baby, messy diapers and all.

Special thanks to fact checker, Matt Fisken for catching sly old John with another one of his word/meaning twisting tricks.

2 years 11 months ago
John, “The key here is EVIDENCE that the Board was misled or that the evidence shows that GMP has been imprudent (or perhaps in this case, that the asset is less useful than originally thought”. GMP stated a CF of 0.338 and the PSB did not challenge it, approved the project, even though ample FERC data from actual wind turbine plants on Maine ridge lines and in New York State indicated about 0.25. The Board was not misled. GMP and the Board may have engaged in politically-expedient collusion to make RE a reality to achieve the PLAN, or the Board… Read more »
John Greenberg
2 years 11 months ago
Willem, I don’t want to put words in your mouth. You comment appears to be based on the allegation that the Board approved the Lowell project based on a higher capacity factor than has been achieved: “GMP stated a CF of 0.338 and the PSB did not challenge it, approved the project …” Can you document that allegation please? I just skimmed through the Board’s order granting the project a Certificate of Public Good. (http://psb.vermont.gov/sites/psb/files/orders/2011/7628FinalOrder%20CPG%20Attachment%20A-2.pdf) I see nothing at all there about capacity factor. So exactly where did the Board consider the information that you say “GMP stated” and exactly… Read more »
2 years 11 months ago
John, Below is an excerpt from a prior comment I made. Note the URL with GMP using a CF of 0.3587, even greater than the 0.338 calculated from the Lowell annual energy production stated on the DPS SPEED website. CEA taking 0.33 from “Vermont sources” (see Note), who planned to financially benefit from wind energy is professionally inexcusable, as the DOE, the EIA, the NREL and the AWEA never made a 0.33 claim for the Northeast AT THAT TIME, and not now. The Lowell Mountain ridge line happened to be for sale/available, but it has little exceptional to recommend itself… Read more »
John Greenberg
2 years 11 months ago

Willem:
This response doesn’t even speak to my questions. I asked you “exactly where did the Board consider the information that you say “GMP stated” and exactly how are you suggesting that it made use of that information in approving the project?” I’m still asking.

2 years 11 months ago
John, According to the above URL (a filing with the PSB), GMP claimed: – a CF of 0.3587, because it was using a larger rotor which required greater capital expenditure (and would make more noise, especially health-harmful LFN and infrasound), and – it would lower the levelized wind energy cost below 10 c/kWh. Can you imagine what that cost would be, if the on-average CFs turned out to be about 0.25, even WITH the $10.5 million synchronous-converter plant, and a life of 20 years vs the vendor/GMP-claimed 25 years? The 0.3587 compares with the implied CF of 0.338 calculated from… Read more »
John Greenberg
2 years 11 months ago
Willem, My questions shouldn’t be all that difficult to answer, if there’s any substance to your claims. Yet, you’re still not answering them. I assume that when you refer to the “above URL (a filing with the PSB),” you are referring to this://vce.org/2011-6-20_ALB-CFT_First_Comments_GMP_Filings(7628).pdf, which is “Craftsbury and Albany’s First Set of Comments on the Petitioner’s Post-CPG Filing.” As its title implies, this document was filed AFTER the CPG was granted. In any case, this filing doesn’t support ANY of the claims you made. In particular, you wrote: “GMP stated a CF of 0.338,” but this document says “The Petitioners avoid… Read more »
2 years 11 months ago
John, “Germans are known for many things, but “unrealistic fantasizing” is usually not among them.” Did they not start WW-I and WW-II? Was not their goal Deutschland Uberall? No unrealistic fantasizing? Recently, their Energiewende has become (or has been made into) an issue of national pride (just Google it), because they think, if they fail or give up on it, there will be no end to the schadefreude by other nations, and other nations will think less of their vaunted technological prowess going forward. Here is how Germany plans to do it: – Reducing CO2 emissions 40% below 1990 levels… Read more »
Wayne Andrews
2 years 11 months ago
There is nothing wrong with ISO’s decision to bypass the windmills due to transmission restraints. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. I see this all the time with the dreamers whose idea trumps study. Another good example of this thinking is the new fire code regulations which require larger feed capabilities than what Vermont’s hydrology will supply to a structure. We need to seriously look at the environmental oppositions to these projects whose one-sided approach is not in the best interest of the people. I am no Shumlin fan however I respect the head man for… Read more »
Pete Novick
2 years 11 months ago
“Stephen Rourke, vice president of system planning for ISO New England, said the problem with the northern tier of Vermont’s grid is that there are numerous large-scale renewable energy projects feeding into a low voltage section of the transmission network.” No kidding? There is a ton of analysis available on the huge problem of connecting (relatively) low voltage renewable energy power sources to the otherwise (mostly) high voltage grid. ISO NE steps up voltage in the grid to improve efficiency (and save money). Best solution I see is to attach gondolas to the ends of the Lowell wind turbine blades… Read more »
Kathy Leonard
2 years 11 months ago

“the problem with the northern tier of Vermont’s grid is that there are numerous large-scale renewable energy projects feeding into a low voltage section of the transmission network.”

This is why we should be looking to grow distributed energy. Perhaps nobody gets rich quick with distributed energy but it would provide less expensive, more resilient and reliable, local energy production. Off-grid and grid-tied homes, neighborhood and municipal solar projects, parking lot and commercial roof solar in every county would reflect Vermont’s self-reliant character without necessitating some ‘deal’ to sell it or send profits elsewhere.

2 years 11 months ago

Pete,

And 24/7 heavily-subsidized EB-5 water slides in the NEK to use up the heavily-subsidized variable, intermittent wind energy to avoid sending it to the NEK grid.

People from all over the world will come to marvel at the 8th or 9th wonder of the world: Wind energy powered water slides. Vermont truly a leader.

Paul Denton
2 years 11 months ago
What most amazes me about this whole farce is how totally predictable all of this was. Surely GMP, the PSD and the Public Service Board KNEW about all of these limitations before giving the project a certificate of public good. If they didn’t, that raises a whole set of even more disturbing questions about their basic competence. But what good were all the hearings and studies and commissions if they didn’t figure out that the basic infrastructure wasn’t up to handling the power produced? That wind resources would be shut off in favor of awesomely inefficient diesel generators because the… Read more »
Guy Page
2 years 11 months ago
First of all, thanks Digger for providing the news coverage AND the comment platform. It’s like watching the Red Sox and hearing post-game analysis, all in one! There is so much bad energy policy-making here….. First, why hasn’t curtailment been a well-known public issue? I understand that it was discussed in the regulatory process, so perhaps the fault is ours, caveat emptor applies to news consumers as well. But the State of Vermont in its role as chief advocate for the ratepayer should have, in effect, “disclosed” this not-so-little downside of Lowell Mountain. But no, it was pedal to the… Read more »
John Greenberg
2 years 11 months ago
Guy: Your comments imply that Shumlin’s letter assertively blames ISO-NE and then proposes recommendations which could lead to serious grid instability. Neither claim has any basis in the letter I just read (http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/interactive/article/20130729/NEWS03/130729012/PDF-Gov-Peter-Shumlin-s-letter-ISO-New-England), which is respectful, forward looking, and technically well within bounds as far as I understand this stuff. The heart of the letter is this paragraph: “ISO New England has previously noted deficiencies in the transmission grid surrounding Kingdom Community Wind and elsewhere in the region where curtailments have occurred. I urge ISO-NE to consider whether its planning assumptions used for approval of projects align well with its… Read more »
2 years 11 months ago
John, “In this instance, the wind was blowing, the power WAS needed, but ISO-NE chose a dirtier generator to supply it.” ISO-NE’s first concern is not clean or dirty, but grid stability, especially during stressful conditions due to high demand. A cascading failure condition would have many thousands of people and businesses without energy, including, for example, a Rutland Regional Medical Center. ISO-NE’s engineers chose STABLE, high-quality, diesel-generator energy, instead of variable, intermittent, low-quality, wind turbine energy. As we all know by now, Lowell’s energy is curtailed because it is VARIABLE voltage energy and because, frequently, there is too much… Read more »
2 years 11 months ago
John, Here are some excerpts of the URL which covers a brief prepared by Jared M. Margolis. http://vce.org/2011-6-20_ALB-CFT_First_Comments_GMP_Filings(7628) “Comments on Attachment A – Docket No. 7628 Kingdom Community Wind Project, Description of Project Changes – and Revised Budget” Comments were made on “Attachment A”, which contains GMPs claims, but it is not attached to the above URL. “The revised budget for the Project shows that the Petitioners (GMP) are now claiming a 35.78% capacity factor, which is unheard of in the industry, and not supported by the testimony in this Docket.” Even CFs of 0.33 were unheard of until it… Read more »
John Greenberg
2 years 11 months ago
Willem: You still haven’t answered my questions, which simply ask you to provide documentation for your own assertions. Accordingly, they shouldn’t be hard to answer; they’re not trick questions. First, the document we now agree you’ve linked to is clearly NOT the source of YOUR figure, as apparently you now agree, so I’m not sure why you’re bringing it up here. The figures used in the actual PSB case, taking the document at face value, may be, as you suggest “at variance with the estimated production data on the DPS SPEED website which implies a CF of 33.8%” (no link… Read more »
2 years 11 months ago
John, Someone must have provided the DPS with the Lowell production (MWh/yr) stated on the DPS SPEED website. That production number yields a CF = 0.338, the number I used in my articles. I was not aware of the 0.2842 (small rotor) and the 0.3578 (large rotor) until recently, as a result of a comment by Annette. I, and others, maybe even the PSB and DPS, do not know how GMP arrived at these CF numbers. To my knowledge, and as stated in below URL, only ONE, (Mars Hill in Maine) has CFs of about 0.36. It was one of… Read more »
John Greenberg
2 years 11 months ago
Willem, In short, as I suspected, you have NO documentation for your claims. I have NO idea what capacity factor numbers GMP presented to the Board, if any, or whether those numbers played any significant role in permitting the project. What’s now apparent is this: neither do you. The difference is that you pretend to, and I freely admit to having no knowledge. I try very hard to make no claims in public writing that I cannot fully document and defend or, on the rare occasions when I do go beyond what I know, to be very clear that I… Read more »
2 years 11 months ago
John, MARGOLIS obtained the CFs of 0.2842 and 0.3578 from PSB documents, as he states in his brief TO THE PSB; would he be deliberately misstating? There is YOUR documentation of the CFs given by GMP to the PSB. I do not know, if the PSB questioned them or used them as a basis for approval for the CPG. By now, we all know, the PSB did not sufficiently consider NEK grid limitations regarding multiple wind plants in the NEK. A lack of due diligence? Maybe even malfeasance, i.e., knowing the NEK grid limitations (which many people knew, including ISO-NE,… Read more »
Lance Hagen
2 years 11 months ago

John, why on earth are you making such a big issue over Willem providing a documented source for capacity factor numbers GMP used for Lowell Mountain?

Just go to the GMP web site:

http://www.greenmountainpower.com/upload/photos/236KCW_QA_Feb_2013_FINAL.pdf

For 21, 3 MW Vesta V112 turbines GMP is claiming these will provide 186,000 MWh annually.

CP = (186,000 / (3x21x365x24)) = 33.7 %

I think GMP’s published numbers supports Willem claim.

So do the math and quit being a ‘dink’ over this minor issue!

Annette Smith
2 years 11 months ago
Fortunately Luke Snelling at Energize Vermont archived all the filings in the Lowell/GMP PSB proceedings. You can find them all here http://energizevermont.org/2010/01/lowell-vt-green-mountain-power-kingdom-community-wind-information/ There wouldn’t be a need for a non-profit to be the resource for the case if 1) the PSB website was complete and kept updated and 2) GMP had not taken down their site with all the filings. So have at it, go digging and find what your’e looking for. It’s all there. Lance’s calculations are based on each turbine being 3 MW, but it turned out post-CPG that the Vestas v112s each are rated more than 3… Read more »
John Greenberg
2 years 11 months ago
Willem & Lance: Let’s take this one step at a time, hopefully for the last time. 1) Willem originally wrote: “GMP stated a CF of 0.338.” Now he says;” MARGOLIS obtained the CFs of 0.2842 and 0.3578 from PSB documents, as he states in his brief TO THE PSB; would he be deliberately misstating? There is YOUR documentation of the CFs given by GMP to the PSB.” The problem is that what is claimed as documentation doesn’t document the figure provided, it contradicts it: 28.42% isn’t 33%; neither is 35.78%. 2) Willem also wrote: “the PSB did not challenge it,… Read more »
Wayne Andrews
2 years 11 months ago

Well stated Mr. Page.

Don Peterson
2 years 11 months ago
We rely on government to administer large scale projects in a way that furthers the interests of human beings, not large corporations. The Public Service Department, the Public Service Board, and the legislature have all let us down in the case of KCW. There was enough testimony for regulators to have been alerted to the impending disaster that has occurred on Lowell Mtn. Besotted by the lure of federal money, they rewrote the rules to favor a project that no one properly understood. The final scene in the play is Peter Shumlin commanding the wind to blow. This is a… Read more »
2 years 11 months ago

Lance,

Thank you for your comment. The DPS has that number on its SPEED website.

What John is doing is trying to discredit me, but every time he tries, I come back with more information which make it more difficult to discredit me.

I do respect his intelligence and persistence.

Some small people often make mountains out of mole hills.

Annette Smith
2 years 11 months ago
From the PSB docket in the Lowell wind case, this is the surrebuttal testimony of the Department of Public Service’s witness, filed one month before the technical hearings. It was archived as a Zipped file so I threw it up on VCE’s site for sharing: http://www.vce.org/DPS St Peter – Surrebuttal Testimony-FINAL.pdf Some translation might be necessary. “PTF treatment” is what GMP was arguing for, they wanted the cost of the synchronous condenser (in the document it’s estimated at $15 million) to be shared, or socialized, among all ISO-NE users. ISO-NE objected. That was one of the issues. The relatively short… Read more »
2 years 11 months ago
Annette, Your comment about the PSB and Lowell filings is very well presented and documented. I hope John G. will read your comment. I am glad Luke Snelling is keeping tabs on the GMP/PSB/DPS/Lowell fiasco. Keeping tabs may get increasingly more difficult with more hide-and-seek, as future, miserable production and project data likely will reveal the extend of the fiasco. Vermont a leader in glasnost? The members of the PSB have become enablers for politicians with agendas, instead of protecting the Vermont Public. It has become a Special Interest Service Board, SISB, performing “Constituent Service”, holding pro-forma hearings, “following the… Read more »
John Greenberg
2 years 11 months ago

All three members of the Board were appointed (or in one case, re-appointed) by Republican Governor Jim Douglas. Shumlin has (re-)appointed one member out of the 3.

2 years 11 months ago
Annette, Your revelation of the PSB hearing history regarding going to a larger rotor is very interesting. Because Lowell appears to be a relatively weak-wind ridge, and GMP wanted to improve the economics of the project to get the levelized energy cost below 10c/kWh (the PSB and DPS may have copies of the GMP spreadsheets), GMP decided the greater levelized (Owning+ O&M) cost for wind turbines with larger rotors, would be more than offset by the increased production. It looks like that increased production will not happen. The much lower production also means less RECs to be sold by GMP… Read more »
2 years 11 months ago
Annette/Lance, “Lance’s calculations are based on each turbine being 3 MW, but it turned out post-CPG that the Vestas v112s each are rated more than 3 MW, hence GMP told the PSB the capacity factor would be 35.78%”. Original production = 63 MW x 8760 hr/yr x CF 0.2842 = 156,844 MWh/yr Production per DPS SPEED site = 63 x 8760 x 0.338 = 186,570 MWh/yr Large rotor production = 63 x 8760 x 0.3587 = 197,959 MWh/yr If, with the larger rotor, the 63 MW becomes greater, and the CF = 0.3587, then the 197,959 MWh/yr will be even… Read more »
John Greenberg
2 years 11 months ago
Annette Smith and I rarely agree, so when we do, there are grounds for celebration. She writes: “There wouldn’t be a need for a non-profit to be the resource for the case if 1) the PSB website was complete and kept updated …” and later “This is a whole other problem with the PSB process. The only record that exists of the technical hearings is in the form of typewritten transcripts which are not available in the public record, except by reviewing them in person at the PSB offices. They were posted by Energize Vermont, but the court transcriptionists control… Read more »
Annette Smith
2 years 11 months ago
If you’re interested in what a decent record looks like, the New Hampshire siting commission has an excellent site. All the current projects are here http://www.nhsec.nh.gov/current.htm and when you click on one of them, say the Antrim Wind docket, you get all the documents in the case, including letters, testimony, application, everything in chronological order http://www.nhsec.nh.gov/2012-01/index.htm This is website 101. Nothing hard about it. You just need one person dedicated to tossing things up on the web. Not highly technical, this is basic secretarial work. There has been legislation that VCE supported that would have gotten money for the PSB… Read more »
2 years 11 months ago

Annette,
We agree the PSB could learn some glasnost, but there are other departments, currently not so much in the spotlight, that lack glasnost similar to the PSB.

Openness and transparency are words mentioned by people, but to put the effective procedures in place and have them monitored by an ombudsperson for continued effectiveness requires quite some administrative setup. As a result ad hoc has become the operative procedure by default.

Annette Smith
2 years 11 months ago
Agreed, there are other Agencies and Departments failing in transparency. ANR’s customer is the regulated community, and staff meetings with developers and their experts are not open to the public, and hardly anyone writes anything down anymore, something we have learned through our regular public records requests. Mostly we get notes scheduling phone calls or meetings. Imagine scientists not taking notes! Didn’t used to be that way. The Douglas administration was much better by comparison, believe it or not. Permits get issued with at most a public hearing and written public comment period, resulting in a responsiveness summary that often… Read more »
John Greenberg
2 years 11 months ago

Thanks for this Annette. Do you know the bill number and sponsors? Thanks.

Annette Smith
2 years 11 months ago
By the end of the session, it was S. 25 (with H. 39 add-ons). H.39 was the original PSB bill. You’ll have to do some hunting to find the final versions of both House and Senate bills. I just looked and suggest you start with H.39. Sponsors are listed on each bill. From VCE’s notes from the session’s end: “Unfortunately, House and Senate leaders were not able to resolve differences about the bill, though what those differences were was never entirely clear.” This legislation was strongly supported by Public Service Department Commissioner Chris Recchia, and will presumably be revived in… Read more »
John Greenberg
2 years 11 months ago

Thanks Annette.

Matt Fisken
2 years 11 months ago
Lance, thanks for posting the link to the GMP Q&A. I noticed this: “Will sound monitoring include infrasound? Infrasound is audio frequencies below the level of human hearing. Infrasound commonly occurs in nature from numerous sources including surf, aurora borealis, solar flares, and thunderstorms. After extensive testimony from sound experts, the PSB concluded that the wind turbines are NOT LIKELY to emit AUDIBLE or PERCEIVABLE infrasound. As a result, the Board did not require monitoring for infrasound.” (emphasis added) This may be the finest example of using weasel words I’ve ever seen. By saying “not likely” the door wide open… Read more »
Don Peterson
2 years 11 months ago

Well put Mr. Fisken.

Long dry posts about process and procedure keep people who might want to learn more at a distance, and dont raise the common level of understanding. They are hard to read, and no one likes to see hectoring occur.

The more people know about IWT the better. Blogs are a specific type of communication; IMHO to be effective posts are better left short and sweet.

John Greenberg
2 years 11 months ago
Matt Fisken writes: “It’s one thing to gamble with your own money, but it’s totally different when you’re gambling with taxpayer and ratepayer money and when the stakes are not just monetary but involve the health and wellbeing of Vermonters and the environment. That’s the point Willem Post has very successfully made time and time again regarding KCW.” The point about ratepayers (taxpayers are a different issue) is precisely the point that I’ve argued that Willem Post has NOT successfully made. Unless I’m mistaken, it will require a rate case to see what the stakes are for ratepayers; that, in… Read more »
2 years 11 months ago

Matt,
A well written summary I agree with.
Thank you for your complement.
Willem

walter moses
2 years 11 months ago
92 responses to the above article most by reasonable well informed readers. Amazing that, by my count, most are very negative toward GMP, Shumlin, the VT legislators and the PSB. Hints of corruption, duplicity and outright lying by the above. Do they get the message? GMP’s answer is to keep repeating the same old line, ” we will save ratepayers untold millions” in the hope someone believes them. Shumlin acts like Dudley Doright. I found it hard to believe that he attended the “Moose Harvest “lottery drawing to be the first to hug some guy who won the right to… Read more »
Kevin Jones
2 years 11 months ago
Having managed wholesale market policy for a utility that is about 5 times larger than the Vermont load I find the Shumlin administrations criticisms of ISO-NE both flawed and troubling. First, it is ISO-NE’s role to manage the reliability of the Vermont grid not protect the finances of an IOU that owns a generation project. When a generator interconnects with the grid it is the generators responsibility to pay for system upgrades necessary to maintain grid reliability not the grid operators. While ISO-NE identifies the upgrades necessary and must operate the grid in a reliable manner it is the generators… Read more »
2 years 11 months ago
Kevin, “As I have explained many times given that Vermont utilities sell all of the RECs from Vermont SPEED projects such as Kingdom Community Wind the more this facility generates the higher Vermont’s carbon emissions since the green energy is sold out of state and fossil fueled energy is imported in its place.” You have explained it incorrectly many times. You are again confusing bookkeeping with physics and who gets credit. According to the BOOKKEEPING, only the RECs are exported, not the wind ENERGY, which gets used, most likely by Vermonters, as soon as it is fed into the grid,… Read more »
Kevin Jones
2 years 11 months ago
Willem you may be a good engineer but you continue to miss the intricacies of power markets and why RECs were created in the first place. If both the out of state customers and Vermont load get to count the same wind energy as low carbon that would be double counting and mathematically not correct. When a Vermont utility signs a contract with a renewable generator and then sells the RECs the Vermont load must be assigned an emission profile (which is all fossil and nuke) for its consumption since the low carbon energy goes with the RECs. The concept… Read more »
2 years 11 months ago
Kevin, “As you know the electrons go into the mix and you cannot physically deliver it to a customer so RECs are the means to do the accounting which is the important feature not where the energy is generated. ” That is exactly the point I have been making: The Lowell wind energy is consumed as soon as it is delivered to the grid (the grid cannot store energy), most likely by Vermonters, but from an ACCOUNTING point of view, RECs are sold by GMP to an out-of-state entity so that entity can POSTPONE for one year doing something about… Read more »
2 years 11 months ago
Kevin, “It is a fact that if you correctly model Vermont load the more (energy) SPEED projects generate (e.g. all the Vermont wind projects) the higher Vermont customers’ carbon footprint.” If we assume Vermont generates 20% of its energy from wind (about the maximum politically/economically feasible), almost all of it would be consumed within Vermont. If all the RECs were sold (by, for example, GMP) to out of state entities, it would reduce GMP’s cost of energy, and rate increases would be less for Vermonters. To achieve this, several billion dollars of grid construction would be required within Vermont, plus… Read more »
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