Seneca Mountain Wind project on hold as developer pulls application

Plans for the latest industrial-scale wind project in the Northeast Kingdom have taken a step backward.

Eolian Renewable Energy, a wind developer based in Portsmouth, N.H., withdrew its application to connect power from the proposed Seneca Mountain Wind project to the region’s electric grid. ISO New England, the region’s grid operator, has halted its review of the project.

Project manager John Soininen declined to comment on the decision and company CEO Jack Kenworthy did not return a phone call requesting comment Thursday.

The decision to back off the 20-turbine ridgeline wind project in Ferdinand was likely due to the cost of upgrading the transmission infrastructure needed to connect the remote wind power to the weak rural grid network.

Transmission line upgrades needed to avoid additional stress on a constrained electric grid were estimated to cost $86 million, according to David Hallquist, CEO of Vermont Electric Cooperative.

“If I were running a project and I added $86 million to the cost of the project, it’s no longer economically feasible,” he said.

Because large amounts of wind power can bottleneck along rural grid networks, the region’s grid operator last year curtailed power output from Green Mountain Power’s Lowell Mountain wind farm. Adding more wind power to these remote lines could damage the already weak section of the grid.

VEC purchases power from the area’s Sheffield Wind Project. Hallquist had publicly opposed the adding new wind generation in the area because it could further limit Sheffield’s power output.

Hallquist recently changed his position when the developer was considering transmission upgrades.

Rep. Tony Klein, D-East Montpelier, who chairs the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee, said the state is in a “breather period” where transmission upgrades will be required before more renewable power is brought online.

“We’ve had a pretty big and rapid build-out for this technology and I think we’re probably in a breather stage with the increase and the rise of renewable sources coming on the line,” he said. “Our antiquated systems need to be modernized.”

Nonetheless, he said Eolian’s decision doesn’t mark the end of big wind in the state.

“I don’t think any one or so project either going ahead or pulling out is any indication of the state and health of the fuel of the future going forward,” Klein said.

Hallquist said the developer could come back with a new proposal if federal regulators approve a plan to socialize, or share, the costs of transmission build-outs among the region.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2011 issued FERC Order 1000, a ruling that could overhaul the allocation of costs to upgrade the region’s electric infrastructure.

Working to finalize the rule, some New England states are proposing to share 70 percent of the costs of any transmission upgrades that benefit the entire region. Vermont opposes this cost-allocation ratio.

“I wonder if Eolian is pulling back and waiting,” Hallquist said. “If 70 percent gets socialized, then the project might be feasible again.”

Nonetheless, opponents of industrial wind are hailing the decision to withdraw the application.

“Withdrawing a request like this generally signals the death of a project, so we are looking forward to hearing an announcement from SMW that they will completely abandon their plan to industrialize ridgelines in the Northeast Kingdom,” said Mark Whitworth, executive director of Energize Vermont.

“The Seneca Mountain Wind project would have destroyed one of Vermont’s most ecologically valuable wildlife habitat blocks,” he said.

Several towns neighboring the project located on Seneca Mountain have voted against it.

John HerrickJohn Herrick

Comments

  1. Kim Fried :

    Thanks God. Our citzens,Vermont citizens, have suffered every day since Seneca Mountain Wind arrived in our Towns of Bighton, Newark and the UTG.
    This was well over two years ago.
    These towns all had votes of it’s citizens and tax payers that clearly said no to this project. Seneca Mountain Wind being a “community minded Company” told the Towns,as did the Govenor, that they would honor such a vote and then continued to abuse the citizens. High levels of stress, the financial burden,future impacts on our environment and neighbors were all ignored by this out of state developer. The State of Vermont, the Department of Public Service and Public Servic Board should never let a situation like this happen again in the future. Every Vermonter deserves a decent quality of life and future. There is no room in Vermont for such a disrespectful, dishonest company.

    • Thanks Kim.
      It would be nice to see some wind turbines go up in places that use a lot of power and also have a lot of wind, such as on Jay Peak or on the lake off Burlington’s shore, where the electrons wouldn’t have to travel far to their users and the users would be able to gaze out their windows at the towers.

      • Paul Lorenzini :

        THAT IS A GREAT IDEA!!!!

        HOW ABOUT A COUPLE WIND TURBINES ON THE STATEHOUSE LAWN, AND SOLAR PANELS ON THE GOLDEN DOME!!!!!!!!!!!!

        • Paul Lorenzini :

          No replies from the RE folks, just scowls and plots.

          • Paul Lorenzini :

            peep peep peep say the windmill capitalists, while the plot to stab me in the back like a politician.

  2. Kathy Leonard :

    I spent some time in this part of Vermont yesterday and its beauty and wildness struck me yet again. Thanks to all of you who live there who have kept fingers in the dike of resistance to this wrong-headed idea. May it dry up and… blow away.

  3. Let’s have a party!

    The subsidy trough just dried up, and this is not the first project to have been cancelled:

    http://www.post-gazette.com/local/region/2012/05/16/Two-big-Pennsylvania-wind-farm-projects-canceled/stories/201205160262

    Two planned wind farm projects in the state have been canceled as Washington prepares to eliminate tax credits for the production of renewable energy

    • Bob Orleck :

      The article you cite is 2012.

      • That article was posted on someone’s blog as current news. This is the recent news, printed in our local papers, from May 15, 2014.

        http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_CONGRESS_TAX_BREAKS?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT

        REPUBLICANS BLOCK BILL TO RENEW EXPIRED TAX BREAKS

        Thursday’s vote was 53 to 40, which was seven votes shy of the 60 votes needed to advance the bill. Some Republican senators said they expected the bill to come up again, perhaps after congressional elections in November.

        [The eliminated tax credits for businesses included:]

        – A generous tax credit for using wind farms and other renewable energy sources to produce electricity.

        If there is more recent news, I would like to see it: thanks.

        • Kathy Nelson :

          Ellin, you may be interested in this:

          http://www.forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2014/05/17/tax-extenders-bill-stalled-in-senate/

          Democrat members of the Senate stooped so low that they tried to attach the tax extender package (with the wind PTC) to a veteran’s employment bill. The pathetic stunt failed, but it did show us all what value the democrat senate majority really place on our veterans.

          • Kathy,

            Many legislators have friends and relatives in RE businesses. And those RE businesses make sure some legislator relatives and friends are on their payrolls. It is called “closing the circle; one hand washes the other”.

            Some of them reap/gather/angle for campaign contributions, and other freebies, a.k.a. bribes, to perform legislative “constituent service” for RE businesses to help them gather in as much subsidies as possible, as quickly as possible.

            They will debase themselves to do ANYTHING to do “constituent service”, i.e., maximize subsidies for friends and families in RE businesses.

            Vermont’s Congressional delegation was likely in favor of attaching the rider, a legislative caper to to get one’s way.

            It has NOTHING to do with reducing CO2, because if THAT were the case, The energy-guzzling US would not waste money on RE, but spend it all on increased energy efficiency.

          • Richard Ratico :

            Kathy,
            It appears the Senate republicans are in much deeper trouble with veterans than the democrats.
            http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/27/us/veterans-groups-lash-out-at-republican-senator.html

            “Relations between the organizations and Senate Republicans have been strained since February, when Republicans blocked a vote on broad veterans legislation, written by Mr. Sanders, that would have bolstered health and dental care, authorized 27 new clinics and medical facilities, added to veterans education programs, and dealt with veterans who suffered sexual trauma while in the military.”

  4. Nancy Fried :

    Good news for the Seneca Ridgelines and all the wildlife and people in the surrounding area! Good news for Vermont!

  5. Valerie Desmarais :

    I am relieved that we may be able to enjoy the upper reaches of the Northeast Kingdom in their wildness without fear or worry that they are being slated for destruction. I am disappointed but not surprised that Eolian has based their decision to withdraw from the ISO queue relevant to their financial situation rather than on the votes of the people who actually live here. Given their track record, and lack of public comment, the future of the region remains uncertain. A “breather” is in order, but we need big changes in the protocol and policies that enabled this fiasco to get this far.

  6. Kathy Nelson :

    You are absolutely right, Valerie. It is now time we put protections in place to prevent repeat offenses by both developers and corrupt politicians. It’s called a municipal rights ordinance, and the time to do it is now.

  7. Bob Orleck :

    Finally something going the right way in this state. Thanks to all the voices.

  8. Rob Pforzheimer :

    Eolian (Seneca Mtn Wind) has withdrawn from the ISO queue upon learning that the System Impact Study (SIS) said new transmission and upgrades would cost $86 million.
    The obvious, simple question here is, why isn’t a SIS required before a developer initiates a project (including met towers) that causes communities so much anxiety, divisiveness, time and money, and wastes the board’s and court’s time as well?

    • Rob,

      It is called BAU in Montpelier.

      If those folks were in private enterprise, they would be in the unemployment lines.

  9. Seneca, 60 MW, is not the only wind facility that would require extensive grid augmentation.

    GMP and VEC spent at least $20 million for grid various upgrades, including the $10.5 synchronous condenser facility, which was supposed to start up in December 2013, but still has not started.

    As a result, Lowell had significant production shortfalls during the past 18 months, which means costs must be averaged over fewer kWh and less REC will be sold to offset costs.

    The $250,000 rotor blade repair job (hit by lightning) was just “icing” on the cake.

    ALL those extra costs will be added to electric rates, per, more or less rubber stamp, PSB approval.

    On average, in the US, about 10 – 20% should be added to the installed project cost, for grid augmentation.

    Seneca would would have a project cost of about 60 MW x $2.6 million/MW = $156 million + $86 million for grid augmentation.

    15% x $156 million = $23.4 million. The $86 million is at least $60 million greater than normal.

    The project is dead, unless already-struggling households and businesses all chip in about $60 million (as if all the various subsidies are not already enough!) to help EOLIAN make a success of its tax shelter. It is called “socializing” the cost. Yikes.

    Bribes for “host” communities would have been about $10,000 per MW each year for the life of the project – or $25,000 per turbine each year for 2.5 MW turbines. BTW, all the “host” communities voted AGAINST the project.

    Such a project is just another unnecessary economic imposition on already-struggling households and businesses:

    – trying to make ends meet/hold their own, most of them with declining or stagnant real household incomes since about 2000,
    – in a near-zero-growth Vermont economy,
    – with a cost of living index 20% greater than the US COL,
    – with a government and quasi-government sector growing at a greater rate than the increasingly-hollowed-out private sector, and
    – with the fourth highest electric rates in the US, right after Hawaii, Alaska, and Connecticut, partially due to having to subsidize and finance expensive, ineffective wind energy and solar energy SPEED programs that produce variable, intermittent, i.e., junk, energy at 3-4 times NE grid prices. See URLs.

  10. John Greenberg :

    “ALL those extra costs will be added to electric rates, per, more or less rubber stamp, PSB approval.”

    Any evidence for that statement, Willem?

    • John,
      I stated “will”, hence there is no evidence yet.

      We will see when the next GMP rate change will be processed.

    • Paul Lorenzini :

      John, please advocate for the confiscation of anothers dollars to subsidise me. You!

      • John Greenberg :

        You are an advocate of nuclear power, so you do that yourself. I’ll stop when you do!

        • John,

          Russia plans to build 8 more nuclear reactor plants in IRAN, in addition to the two reactors already in service.

          This will reduce IRAN’s domestic gas consumption, reduce its own CO2 emissions, so it can export more gas and LNG.

          WORLD PROVEN GAS RESERVES

          Ten nations are the major holders of the world’s proven gas reserves. The top five are:

          Gas reserves………..Bcm……………..Exports

          Russia…………..47,804………….212.40
          Iran………………33,786……………..3.90
          Qatar…………….25,063………….125.00; as gas 19, as LNG 106
          US………………….9,459……………37.38; net imports
          Saudi Arabia…….8,241……………..0.00

          The numbers indicate Iran is a big “prize”. If it were more cooperative, it could more properly develop its gas resources. The numbers also indicate, the US, a big consumer of gas, is not in any position to export gas in meaningful quantities to Europe or East Asia for geo-political reasons, because the US needs its low-cost gas for its own economy. To pretend otherwise, using various geo-political reasons, such as “checking Russian expansionist land-grabbing”, is irrational, to say the least.

          http://www.eia.gov/countries/cab.cfm?fips=RS
          http://en.alalam.ir/news/1466052
          http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/368081/russian-gas-exports-and-western-encroachments-russia

          • John Greenberg :

            And your point is???

    • Randy Koch :

      John
      I hope that you who so often demand clarity from all and sundry make the same demands of the PSB and the Department. Perhaps you could even find the time to create a reference work that would explain arcane concepts that render PSB process so opaque to the ordinary mortal.

      • John Greenberg :

        Randy,

        If this comment is meant to be anything more than just a random poke at me, please explain what clarity it is that you think I should “demand” from PSB and DPS and what it is you think “the ordinary mortal” cannot understand.

  11. Paul Lorenzini :

    Lets poll Vernon, and see if their public supports modern atomic energy.

    Please.

  12. Klein: “Our antiquated systems need to be modernized.”

    This is pure nonsense.

    The NEK system was just fine, until GMP started disturbing the grid with its 63 MW Lowell Mountain fiasco requiring at least $25 million in grid adequacy upgrades, such as $10.5 million for the new synchronous condenser system, new substations and enhanced HV transmission lines.

    The 60 MW Seneca project required about $86 million in NEK grid adequacy upgrades.

    Several more Seneca projects would require several hundred million dollars of NEK grid adequacy upgrades.

    The ISO-NE general rule applies: “the disturber pays”.

    And that wind turbine build out would produce variable, intermittent, i.e., junk energy at 15 -20 c/kWh, whereas renewable, much cleaner, NOT variable, NOT intermittent energy from Hydro Quebec is available at about 6 c/kWh under long term contract.

    For Vermont, increased energy efficiency would be sooooooooo much less costly, more effective, and would REDUCE the energy costs of already-struggling households and businesses:

    – Trying to make ends meet/hold their own, most of them with declining or stagnant real household incomes since about 2000,
    – In a near-zero-growth Vermont economy,
    – With a cost of living index 20% greater than the US COL,
    – With a government and quasi-government sector growing at a greater rate than the increasingly-hollowed-out private sector, and
    – With the fourth highest electric rates in the US, right after Hawaii, Alaska, and Connecticut, partially due to having to subsidize and finance expensive, ineffective wind energy and solar energy SPEED programs that produce variable, intermittent, i.e., junk, energy at 3-4 times NE grid prices. See URLs.

    http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/310631/more-realistic-cost-wind-energy
    http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/332911/high-renewable-energy-costs-damage-vermonts-economy
    http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/46652/reducing-energy-use-houses
    http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/71771/energy-efficiency-first-renewables-later

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