Rutland County wind project stuck in limbo

The developer of the proposed Grandpa’s Knob Windpark in Rutland County has canceled easement agreements with surrounding landowners.

The developer, Reunion Power, sent letters to the towns of Pittsford and West Rutland last week saying it had terminated access agreements with property owners. The two towns are located on the east side of the proposed 20-turbine, 50 megawatt project to span Pittsford Ridge.

It’s unclear whether the Grandpa’s Knob project will proceed. Reunion Power, which has offices in Manchester Center and New Jersey, did not return calls seeking comment Monday.

Pittsford Town Manager John Haverstock said some of the town’s residents worry mountaintop development will harm the area’s unique wildlife habitat and natural beauty.

In an April 2012 letter, the Agency of Natural Resources said the “site has exceptional ecological values, and that a commercial wind energy project constructed and operated at this location will result in an undue adverse effect on the natural environment and cannot be mitigated.”

Annette Smith, executive director Vermonters for a Clean Environment, a group opposing ridgeline wind projects, said the canceling of the easements means the developer would have to start from scratch to move the project forward.

The proposed project, which is located on the same mountaintop where Vermont’s first utility wind turbine once stood, marks the most recent setback to wind power in the state.

The Seneca Mountain Wind project is the latest proposed large-scale ridgeline wind project in the Northeast Kingdom. Last month, the Unified Towns and Gores in Essex County voted against a proposed 60-megawatt wind project in Ferdinand.

The developer of the project, Eolian Renewable Energy, of Portsmouth, N.H., is deciding what to do next.

“I can’t say yes, we’re moving forward with the project. I can’t say no, we’re not moving forward with the project,” Seneca Wind Project Manager John Soininen said Monday.

He said the state needs to set clear guidance for energy development. When the state decides what it wants, he said, “we will certainly come out with a press release.”

Ninety percent of Vermont’s energy needs must supplied by renewable sources by the year 2050, according to the state’s Comprehensive Energy Plan.

The goal offers little guidance for developers, Soininen said.

“If Vermont, in fact, wants to get anywhere even slightly close to 90 percent renewable by 2015, then projects like Seneca Mountain Wind project are going to have to move forward,” he said. “That’s a simple fact.”

Rep. Tony Klein, D-East Montpelier, chair of the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee, said local concerns over these project sends a poor message to renewable energy developers and, as a result, companies will likely look to other states to set up projects.

“I think that were just in a period of adjustment in terms of build-out of any of the new (energy) generation sources,” he said. “Not just wind. You’re seeing some heartburn over solar as well. And we certainly have heartburn when it comes to biomass and even hydro.”

He said he doesn’t expect the resistance to last forever. Developers and utilities will adapt to consumer demand, he said.

Iberdrola Renewables, a company headquartered in Spain, has placed three meteorological (MET) towers – two in Windham and one in Grafton – on land owned by the New Hampshire forestry company Meadowsend Timberlands. If the site is used for a wind project, it would be Windham County’s first utility-scale wind project.

The Deerfield Wind project received a certificate of public good for a 45-megawatt wind project. The project would place up to 24 wind turbines on about 80 acres of Green Mountain National Forest land in Searsburg and Readsboro.

John HerrickJohn Herrick

Comments

  1. Matt Fisken :

    Tony Klein’s use of “heartburn” to describe the increasingly common response residents of Vermont and New Hampshire are having to ugly, speculative, health-damaging infrastructure being force fed to them is pretty good. He seems hopeful that a steady diet of junk energy and antacids will make everyone happy in the end.

    • Annette Smith :

      And who knows what this developer needs to admit it’s over. He seems to want to keep the heartburn active, even though he doesn’t have a single easement left.

      The Rutland Herald got him to respond to an email:

      “Steve Eisenberg of Reunion Power responded to an email Monday afternoon. “I can confirm to you that easement agreement termination notices have been filed,” Eisenberg said. “However, we have no other comments or statements that we wish to make at this time.””

    • Heartburn is what you get from a nothingburger!

      But seriously, folks:

      It parallels, albeit in rather crude physical terms, the heartache I feel every time I see the monstrosities, and think about the suffering families.

      • Ellen,

        In LIMBO is a much better place than on any ridgeline.

  2. Rob Pforzheimer :

    The Agency of Natural Resources said this site in Rutland county, ” has exceptional ecological values, and that a commercial wind energy project constructed and operated at this location will result in an undue adverse effect on the natural environment and cannot be mitigated.”
    When is the ANR going to come out with a similar statement about the Senecas, that are of at least the same, if not more, exceptional ecological value?

    • Byron Dolan :

      That will happen when the Senecas are moved out of the Northeast Kingdom.

    • Annette Smith :

      Not to mention Lowell. The Pittsford Ridge is a beautiful mountain, but having been on both, I have yet to see anything as extraordinary as what was the Lowell mountains ecosystem. “Was” is the operative word because it is no longer. I still don’t understand how the ecologists let that mountain go. The only defense they offered was that a housing development would be more destructive than the wind project. But nobody would ever get approval to build a housing development up there, with much of it above 2500 feet.

      And yes, the silence from ANR on the Seneca Mountain area, which is widely known to contain some of the most important wildlife habitat in the state, is deafening.

      • Byron Dolan :

        As many readers here know, the Lowell mountains were sacrificed for no purpose other than enriching industry coffers and political ambition. I grew up searching for straying heifers and birthing cows on the Lowell mountains and I now live in the shadow of the KCW boondoggle. Let the destruction and greed end here.

  3. Wayne Andrews :

    These are the same ANR folks who are lobbying for H 586 which will require a municipality to obtain a hydraulic study before changing out any highway culvert be it 12 inches in diameter or 12 feet.

  4. Don Peterson :

    What is hydro quebec if not a source of renewable energy?

    I made a little video of what happens when the towers come to your town:

    http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmbmau-49MaeB0dM1Szn-vg

    The production values aren’t “Chittenden County Flack” standard, but the message is heartfelt. Save your mountains, because your government won’t do it for you.

  5. Klein: “I think that were just in a period of adjustment in terms of
    build-out of any of the new (energy) generation sources,” he said. “Not
    just wind. You’re seeing some heartburn over solar as well. And we
    certainly have heartburn when it comes to biomass and even hydro.”

    My Lord, how obtuse can one be? Just look at the actual performance
    Klein’s RE projects; they are total failures. The wind and solar projects
    are a total waste of about $500 million, with practically nothing to show
    for it, i.e., they advanced Vermont just 1.65% towards the goal of 90% of
    ALL energy from RE. Yikes. No wonder people are disgusted.

    *VERMONT RENEWABLE ENERGY PROGRAMS *

    Vermont has subsidized about $510 million of solar and wind investments,
    including about $190 million for solar + about $320 million for wind, over
    the past 3.5 years, and has practically nothing to show for it; about 0.83%
    of Vermont’s annual consumption from solar and about 4.11% from wind, for a
    total of 4.94% of Vermont’s annual ELECTRICAL ENERGY consumption, or about
    4.94/3 = 1.65% of ALL annual energy consumed by Vermont.

    That is a long way off from the unrealistic 2011 Comprehensive Energy Plan
    goal of 90% of ALL annual energy consumed by Vermont from renewable sources
    by 2050, not just electrical energy which is only 1/3 of ALL energy.

    How many tens of billions of dollars would that take? Oh, about 90/1.65 x
    $500 million = $27.8 billion over 2050 -2013 = 37 years, or about $0.75
    billion per year.

    The 90% goal would impose on Vermont’s economy job-destroying household and
    business electric rates at least 3-4 times current levels. See below
    section on Germany.

    It is likely that goal was set without any realistic, in-depth analysis,
    which should have been included in the 2011 CEP report for all to see. Poor
    Vermont’s goal is more extreme than rich Germany’s ENERGIEWENDE goal.

    *NOTE:* It is amazing the Department of Public Service does not keep track
    of these numbers and post them, along with other project data, in
    spreadsheet format, on its website. Even for the expert, it takes quite
    some effort to gather the information from various sources.

    *SPEED PROGRAM*

    The SPEED program, with help of subsidies from the Clean Energy Development
    Fund, produces expensive energy. Adding more money to the CEDF will worsen
    a bad situation.

    Here are the production results for the SPEED Program, 2.2 megawatt or less:

    2010……..5,980,779 kWh……..0.1387 $/kWh; July – December
    2011……20,172,973 kWh……..0.1644 $/kWh
    2012……29,666,592 kWh……..0.1716 $/kWh
    2013……44,822,813 kWh……..0.1919 $/kWh

    Vermont annual electrical consumption……5,600,000,000 kWh/yr
    http://vermontspeed.com/speed-monthly-production/

    Here are the 2013 expected ridgeline wind production results for the SPEED
    program, greater than 2.2 MW:

    Searsburg……….11,660 MWh………..CF 0.220

    Sheffield…………..83,395 MWh……….CF 0.238

    Lowell…………….113,687 MWh……….CF 0.206

    Georgia……………21,024 MWh……….CF likely similar to the others

    Total…………….229,766 MWh

    *SOLAR*

    At end 2013, about 38 MW of solar panels, SPEED and non-SPEED, were
    installed that produced about 38 MW x 8,760 hr/yr x capacity factor 0.14 =
    46,603 MWh.

    Solar SPEED is compensated at an excessive 27 c/kWh for ALL energy fed into
    the grid, and non-SPEED, mostly roof-mounted solar systems, is compensated
    at 20 c/kWh for only the excess energy fed into the grid.

    *NOTE:* The SPEED value of 27 c/kWh, set by the PSB, is at least 8 – 9
    c/kWh too high. That value is of great benefit for the tax-shelters of
    multi-millionaires, but excessively increases the electric rates of
    already-struggling households and businesses.

    Vermont consumption is about 5,600,000 MWh/yr, of which about 46,603/56,000
    = 0.83% from solar, mostly SPEED solar.

    Capital cost, nominal dollars, was about 38 MW x 5.0 million/MW = $190
    million over the past 3.5 years. It would take 20/0.83 x $190 million =
    $4.6 billion to get 20% from solar.

    *WIND*

    1) Lowell Mountain, capacity 63 MW, capital cost about $165 million,
    11-month production = 104,213 MWh in 2013; CF = 0.206, which will not
    become much greater with the ISO-NE mandated $10.5 million bank of
    synchronous converters.

    Estimated heavily-subsidized energy production cost 15 – 20 c/kWh, based on
    20-yr life, low ridgeline CF, high ridgeline O&M cost/MWh, high capital
    cost/MW, and much less revenues from Renewable Energy Certificates due to
    less energy production.

    Estimated production 63 x 8760 x 0.2842 = 156,844 MWh/yr, with standard
    rotor.

    Estimated production 63 x 8760 x 0.3587 = 197,959 MWh/yr, with larger
    rotor, 373 ft diameter.

    Estimated production 63 x 8760 x 0.3380 = 186,570 MWh/yr, per GMP website.

    Actual production in 2013: 63 x 8760 x 0.206 = 113,687 MWh.

    *NOTE: *Green Mountain Power testified to the PSB, the CF would be 0.3587,
    “with the bigger rotor”. See URL

    http://vce.org/2011-6-20_ALB-CFT_First_Comments_GMP_Filings(7628)

    Already-struggling Vermont businesses and households in GMP’s service area,
    about 70% of Vermont ratepayers, will be on the hook for the extra Lowell
    costs for 20 or more years. GMP will not suffer, because it will roll all
    its extra costs into rate schedules, per PSB approvals.

    2) Sheffield Mountain, capacity 40 MW, capital cost about $120 million
    11-month production = 76,329 MWh in 2013; CF = 0.238; better than Lowell,
    but much less than the predicted 0.33 or better.

    3) Georgia Mountain, capacity 10 MW, capital cost about $28 million,
    11-month production in 2013 likely was similar to Lowell and Sheffield.

    4) Total energy from wind for all of 2013 was about 230,000 MWh.

    Vermont consumption is about 5,600,000,000 MWh/yr, of which about
    230,000/56,000 = 4.11% from wind.

    Capital cost, nominal dollars, was about $320 million over the past 3.5
    years. It would take 20/4.11 x $320 million = $1.56 billion to get to 20%
    from wind, plus at least $0.5 billion for grid upgrades.

    *Vermont’s Wind Energy Scam:* Vermonters are the victims of a grand scheme
    to promote heavily subsidized, expensive wind energy on ridgelines,
    primarily to schlep as much federal subsidies to Vermont as possible.
    Reports were written about the abundance of wind on ridgelines, and it
    being a great renewable energy source for Vermont, and leading to energy
    independence, and creating jobs. No more reliance on those dirty fossil
    fuels and that dangerous Vermont Yankee.

    The CEA report was written for Vermont utilities to guide them towards
    renewables. CEA based its analyses on CFs = 0.33, quoting “Vermont
    sources”. Page 23.
    http://www.leg.state.vt.us/jfo/envy/7440%20CEA%20report.pdf

    After the CEA report was issued, Blittersdorf, a Vermont wind guru, owner
    of 10 MW Georgia Mountain, helped James Moore write the VPIRG “Repowering
    Vermont” report, which used wind turbine capacity factors of 0.33, quoting
    the CEA report, which quoted “Vermont sources”. Yikes! And Vermont
    legislators were fed this garbage, believed it, and enacted laws
    accordingly, even though evidence of poor CFs of Northeast wind turbine
    plants already existed.

    *REGIONAL WIND TURBINE CAPACITY FACTORS*

    Wind energy promoters have testified before the PSB that their ridgeline
    wind turbine plants will have CFs of about 0.33 or better. Actual
    production results in Maine, New York, indeed all of the Northeast, have
    shown their testimony as not valid.

    Here are the official regional 2012 CFs for NEW projects commissioned in
    2010 and 2011:

    – Central States………..0.370
    – Great Lakes……………0.280
    – West Coast…………….0.260
    – Northeast………………0.252
    – Southeast………………0.247

    See page 48 of URL.
    http://www1.eere.energy.gov/wind/pdfs/2012_wind_technologies_market_report.pdf

    Maine and New York have CFs of 0.25 and 0.235, respectively.
    http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/169521/wind-turbine-energy-capacity-less-estimated

  6. Rep. Klein says he’s worried about “local communities” sending a poor message to big wind and solar developers.

    It seems that Rep Klein, the peoples’ representative, who is unwilling to listen to the neighbors has now developed a serious case of hearing impairment. He has a serious hearing problem if he thinks it’s only the local communities that are sending a message and its only being sent to the developers.

    Well, here’s news for Rep Klein and his allies, the message on industrial wind and solar he hears and fears is coming from all around the state. What’s more, it’s directed as much at him and the other non-listeners in Montpelier as it is to the developers. Vermonters are recognizing the bankruptcy and emptiness of industrial renewable energy promises that have been peddled to them over the past years.

    Holding out the baseless document known and the Comprehensive Energy Plan (CEP) as if it were some sort of Holy Grail that has to be adhered to at all costs, just won’t sell in the twenty-first century. The promoters and developers of industrial wind and solar and the enablers in Montpelier have to realize that we’re not in the 12th or 13th centuries where the peasants can be endlessly kept in the dark and ignorant.

    Today, we have the vtdigger, which allows all people to share information and opinion directed at counterbalancing the kool-aid being distributed by those in favor of covering our state with industrial wind and solar facilities.

    If the tales about the environmental and economic benefits of industrial wind and solar were anywhere close to being correct, we wouldn’t be seeing the push back against these projects coming from around the state. We wouldn’t be hearing about the Grandpa’s Knob developer pulling the plug on his project.

    The reason we’re seeing and hearing the push back is that the people (voters for those in Montpelier) are now learning of the hollowness of the industrial wind and solar performance promises.

    These projects may be profitable for the developers, but they’re a bad deal for ordinary Vermonters. So, what will our elected officials do?

    • Peter,

      Vermont has been shamelessly scammed by wind energy promoters from Shumlin on down.

      Is testimony given under oath to the PSB? If not, quite a few testifiers appear to be guilty of perjury, appear to be making statements they knew to be lies. No one is investigating?

      Winds on ridgelines are MEDIOCRE, as stated in official government documents, not self-serving reports, such as the CEA report and the VPIRG “Repowering Vermont” report, which the Coalition for Energy Solutions severely criticized several years ago, i.e., not worth the paper it was printed on.
      http://www1.eere.energy.gov/wind/pdfs/2012_wind_technologies_market_report.pdf

      SPEED and ridgeline wind, about $500 million down the tube in 3.5 years, ridge lines destroyed, people upset all over the state, producing energy at 3 – 5 times grid prices, to advance the unrealistic, starry-eyed, 90% RE goal by 1.65%!!

      Klein, et al, call that a success. What would they call a failure?

      Senator Campbell did Vermont a huge service by replacing Senator Lyons with Senator Benning.

      That broke up the Shumlin, Klein, Lyons, Chap, DPS, PSB, VEC chain and allowed democracy to start to prevail again, instead of suffering under an arrogant, go-back-to-your-hills-we-know-what-is-good-for-you, command-control regime with no checks and balances.

      It is good an election is coming up to sweep out the hard of hearing.

  7. “In an April 2012 letter, the Agency of Natural Resources said the ‘site has exceptional ecological values, and that a commercial wind energy project constructed and operated at this location will result in an undue adverse effect on the natural environment and cannot be mitigated.'”

    Wait a minute! Can’t the same be said for the Grafton and Windham plaguefield site? (“Plaguefield” is a word I just made up. It has a fourteenth-century ring to it, as in, “The Black Plague.” As in, a return to feudalism: “One large landowner trumps a thousand serfs. You serfs can take it and like it.” It also calls to mind the illness I have experienced in proximity to the Lowell and Sheffield plaguefield sites. I cannot bring myself to say “wind FARM” or even “wind energy project”).

    Senator Galbraith, if you are reading this: Have you been able to obtain a similar ANR statement regarding your own district?

  8. Kim Fried :

    What about a Govenor who promises Vermont citizens he will honor a no vote by a town not wishing to host industrial ridgeline wind turbines? Where has he gone, excuse me Las Vegas.

    • Kim,

      He will be swinging by a USAF base to listen to his favorite sound, F-35s taking off.

      Never mind that base is far from any people, instead of near Burlington.

      Federal subsidy money makes people do irrational things.

    • Is he staying at the Wynds Encore or the Tar Sands?

      Bright light city gonna set my soul
      Gonna set my soul on fire
      Got a whole lot of money that’s ready to burn,
      So get those stakes up higher
      There’s a thousand pretty women waitin’ out there
      And they’re all livin’ devil may care
      And I’m just the devil with love to spare
      Viva Las Vegas, Viva Las Vegas

      I’m gonna keep on the run
      I’m gonna have me some fun
      If it costs me my very last dime
      If I wind up broke up well
      I’ll always remember that I had a swingin’ time
      I’m gonna give it ev’rything I’ve got
      Lady luck please let the dice stay hot
      Let me shout a seven with ev’ry shot
      Viva Las Vegas, Viva Las Vegas,
      Viva, Viva Las Vegas

      [Writer(s): Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman
      Copyright: Mort Shuman Songs, Pomus Songs Inc.]

  9. Pete Novick :

    There is an area of northeast Quebec province in Canada that forms the north side of the St. Lawrence Seaway and lies just to the south of Newfoundland and Labrador. Canada Route 138 follows the coastline and some miles past the little town of Natashquan, the road ends. North and east of that point are thousands of square miles of empty land offering some of the best conditions for generating electricity from wind on the planet. There’s enough room for tens of thousands of wind turbines.

    The build-out would require 30 years at least, beginning with improvements to the port at Natashquan to handle turbine assemblies delivered by barge. The tiny airport could be improved and over time provide a gateway, first for construction crews, and later for turbine farm operators and technicians. Energy companies know a lot about operating in remote areas with often hostile weather: think Prudhoe Bay, Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico.

    Wind is perhaps our most scalable energy resource: you can build five turbines on an otherwise pristine ridge line in the Green Mountain State, pocket your insanely lucrative government incentives, have utilities pay premium wholesale rates for your electricity, and still meet your political associates, lawyers and lobbyists at the first tee by 3 in the afternoon next Tuesday. The poster children for this business model are in the church pew in the back, thank you very much.

    Or you can go big.

    Going big would require the sustained efforts of a national government to provide the vision, enabling legislation, regulatory standards and oversight and environmental stewardship that only national government can provide.

    Unprecedented, you say? Hardly. Governments routinely lead the charge for investments that make sense but for which there is no private sector appetite for long term risk to invested capital. Think of the Interstate Highway System or the Tennessee Valley Authority.

    To think outside the box, you first have to accept you are in a box.

    Wake up Montpelier!

  10. Valerie Desmarais :

    Re: the (would be) developer waffling over what to do next, the following is a quote from Eolian Energy’s website: ” As a demonstration of our commitment to having local buy-in, Seneca Mountain Wind LLC has committed to the outcome of a vote in each potential town where turbines may be located.”
    http://seneca-wind.com/about/
    That is great news to the 3 towns who have voted a resounding “NO” to the industrialization of their mountaintops. Their next move seems clear to me. What part of NO don’t they understand?

  11. Kim Fried :

    Seneca Mountain Wind continues to torture the Vermont citizens of Newark, Brighton and the UTG with anxiety and the worry for our towns. Their committments are absolutely worthless. It’s been just shy of two years now. When is our “citizen” govenment, the Governor, DPS, ANR and PSB going to put a stop to this? We’re talking about controlled, democratic ballot votes in these towns. Does our Vermont goverment only extend democracy to out of state land owners and ridge line wind developers????

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