Environmental advocacy groups respond to wind developer’s withdrawal of interconnection request

News Release — Newark Neighbors United, Brighton Ridge Protectors and Save Our Senecas
May 27, 2014

NEWARK – Three Northeast Kingdom groups, Newark Neighbors United (NNU), Brighton Ridge Protectors (BRP) and Save Our Senecas (SOS) are elated and relieved with the decision by a Portsmouth NH industrial wind developer, Eolian LLC, to withdraw the interconnection request for its Seneca Mountain Wind project.

On Wednesday May 21st, Jack Kenworthy, CEO of Eolian said in an e-mail to ISO-New England “Seneca Mountain Wind has decided to withdraw its interconnection request … we are disappointed by the need to make this decision.”

Over the past two years, each of the rural towns targeted by Eolian for industrial scale development, {Newark, Brighton, and the Unified Towns and Gores (UTGs)} became educated on the realities of Industrial Wind. Long time Newark resident Nancy Fried said “Ridgeline industrial wind inflicts disastrous impacts upon wildlife habitat, fragile ecosystems, neighbors’ health, and property values, all while having an insignificant impact on Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions. We should be doing useful things, smart things and effective things, and not ’just everything’, to address our concerns about climate change” she said.

Each town voted overwhelmingly against the proposed SMW project. But it was the $86M price tag for a transmission infrastructure upgrade, and not respect for the wishes of the people of the Kingdom, that prompted the withdrawal. Community organizer Noreen Hession reported “Neighbors are delighted to see Eolian leave. Their presence has been a nuisance in the Kingdom for the past two years. While they repeatedly told voters they would leave if we voted for them to go away, it’s only the costs of a transmission infrastructure upgrade that put the final nail in their coffin.”

Significant Vermont resources have been devoted to this project by the Agency of Natural Resources, Department of Public Services, Public Service Board, town officials and citizen volunteers. In addition considerable monies have been spent as legal costs mounted. Sutton resident Rob Pforzheimer added “These projects cause communities anxiety and divisiveness, while squandering money, time and precious Vermont assets. It’s time to stop wasting Vermont resources, and require an ISO New England system impact study (SIS) before any developer initiates any level of an energy generation project – including MET towers.”

Hession added “While we are pleased with this turn of events, we know that our work is not done. Changes to the cost-sharing formula for transmission upgrades could shift the financial burden from wind developers onto ratepayers. With ratepayers footing the transmission bill, it is conceivable that another opportunistic developer might be attracted to this location. This would place Vermont’s second-largest block of wildlife habitat back in jeopardy.”

SOS cofounder Val Desmarais said “The knowledge that the mountains will be spared the assault of dynamite and bulldozers brings me great relief. We would like to extend our gratitude to the neighbors of Newark, Brighton, the UTGs, and beyond who contributed time and resources and enabled us to conduct outreach and educational efforts.”

Said Brighton Ridge Protector president Pam Arborio “We’re looking for support from the Shumlin Administration that is similar to what Governor Dean did for Vermonters. In 2000, after towns voted against a Bennington-Rutland gas power plant and pipeline, Governor Dean withdrew his support for the project and vowed to do everything in his power to prevent it, saying “at some point you have to listen to the people.” Arborio continued “While many pro-business legislators will proclaim that “developers have the right to propose things” our state government is allowing developers to use their money and influence to destroy our
communities. That is something that we must address and change. We take this opportunity to call on Governor Shumlin to work with the Vermont State Legislature to amend state law so that when towns vote ’no,’ we only have to do so once. It’s time to put Vermont communities, not merchant developers, in charge of developing renewables. And it’s time to guarantee that in Vermont, ‘no’ really means ‘no.’

Added Hession “The past two years have been life altering. As much as the interaction with the developers has been painful, I’ve also met some of the most committed environmentalists in Vermont: people with integrity, grit and passion who are determined that we will be thoughtful in our approach to climate change, and will not allow the same large scale corporations who created the problem offer industrial scale solutions that will enable them to profit by destroying our environment.”

She continued, “We have learned a lot about energy, state policy and the regulatory process. We’ve learned a lot about the measures Vermonters can take to combat climate change effectively. These are complex matters and we are in a position to help other communities threatened by reckless development proposals. This is what we intend to do.”

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  • Mark Whitworth

    The Seneca Mountain Wind project was a terrible idea: it had no local support, the transmission infrastructure was inadequate, and it would have destroyed one of the state’s largest wildlife habitat blocks.

    What were they thinking?

    Some people are convinced that the developers knew that the project was infeasible and that their entire effort was a charade intended to bilk their partners and investors.

  • Rob Pforzheimer

    Good riddance Eolian/Seneca Mtn Wind. Thanks for leaving.

    • Rob,

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

      GMP and VEC spent at least $20 million for various grid 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, which means a higher cost/kWh.

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

      ALL those extra costs likely 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 an installed 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 for Seneca is at least $60 million greater than normal.

      The project is dead, unless already-struggling households and businesses all chip in about $86 million (as if all the various other subsidies are not already enough!) to help EOLIAN make a success of its tax shelter. It is called “socializing” the cost. Yikes!

      Klein and his consorts love wind energy, want more of it. Voting him out of the legislature would be a good start.

      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, which was ignored, because Montpelier’s RE proponents think it is OK to destroy pristine ridge lines to save the world.

      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.

      Increased energy efficiency of buildings and vehicle would be soooooo much better and less costly.

      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

  • Karen Bessey Pease

    What a relief for Vermont citizens. With luck, Maine citizens will also be this lucky. Eolian has mounted an assault on our rural mountains, also…even going so far as to bring a lawsuit when they didn’t get their way in Frankfort. These are NOT ‘good neighbors’ and it is my hope that they will move away…and stay away.

    • Alice Barnett

      Alas, poor Maine, somehow got the Maine Power Reliability Project to upgrade WIND transmission in western Maine. Ask King Angus how he got the first substation built in Roxbury Maine; miles and miles away from the buyers in Massachusetts. Good thing MPRP ran out of money. Hope the “Highlands” of Maine are as important as the “Scenic by-way” traveling through Roxbury to Rangeley Lakes, right by King Angus’s 500 foot turbines.

      As stated, “WIND ran out of money.

  • Annette Smith

    Unless your community has had to deal with a wind project, you may not understand what an unethical business this is. Eolian put Newark, Brighton and the UTGs through more than 2 years of uproar, without having done its homework in the form of a System Impact Study with ISO-NE, the grid operator.

    Today, the public learned that another unethical wind developer, Iberdrola, pulled out of the ISO-NE queue back in March, the day after town meeting votes went against the company. Did Ibedrola announce the project was over? No. It continued to lead the people in the area to believe they were about to re-file their application. But then today some people discovered that Iberdrola pulled the project, and now the news is out: http://www.sfgate.com/business/energy/article/NH-wind-project-nixed-amid-concerns-over-2nd-plant-5507875.php

    Tonight, Iberdrola and Meadowsend Timber are holding a meeting in Windham, Vermont, promoting yet another inappropriate project for a large tract of land. I checked the ISO-NE Interconnection queue and, gee whiz, guess what, Iberdrola hasn’t even applied for a study to interconnect to the grid. Yet this unethical corporation has no qualms about continuing to put pressure on Windham and Grafton.

    In 2012, Iberdrola said it would need 6 months worth of wind measurement data. Now they have more than a year’s worth and the company is saying it needs two years’ worth.

    No matter what you think of wind energy, allowing these huge corporations to divide our communities and keep them in a state of upheaval for years should raise red flags about socially irresponsible business practices.

    Last I heard, Gov. Shumlin said he wants the next wind project to be in Windham County. Is that why Iberdrola is pursuing its horrible project, which would put 2/3rds of Windham’s population within a mile of huge wind turbines, drive off the 2nd homeowners that make up more than 50% of Windham’s grand list?

  • Phil Lovely

    Grassroots advocacy is alive and well. Congratulations to SOS, NU, BRP and the residents and landowners of the UTG. The speed with which these groups coalesced and became educated on the subject of Big Wind resulted in a lot of push back from the earliest stages. Rural Vermonters have learned valuable lessons from each Big Wind project. The financial costs of these defenses are unfair and ways to hold communities and groups harmless when successful need to be explored. We must continue to be informed, vigilant and united. Big Wind will, assuredly, not go away.

  • Mary Kay Barton

    GOOD RIDDANCE is right! Great job to all the you good folks up there! People are finally waking up to the scam that industrial wind really is!

  • Scott Penob

    Bye bye trustafarians!

  • Mike DiCenso

    Congrats to the NE Kingdom. I listened to wind turbines roaring all night recently. I was 2 miles away and couldn’t sleep. Most people do not realize what a racket these machines can make. Hey Eolian please take FirstWind with you …far away from new England.

  • Penny Gray

    This is great news! Let these wind developers (oil companies) seek out their tax credits and tax payer subsidies someplace else. Leave our mountains alone!

  • Kathy Nelson

    Let’s not forget this is round two in the battle to save the Senecas. In 2005 we won the first battle and now the second battle is coming to a close. The war is not over. The developers have friends in the legislature that are always willing to push for new laws that allow junk energy developers to continue to abuse Vermont towns and citizens. A good example of that was the push and passage of Section 246 (2007) to allow for quicker permitting of MET towers after Brighton proved that MET towers did not apply to Section 248.

    Eolian has been a failure wherever it has imposed itself. It has failed in Frankfurt, Maine, where the citizens there created an ordinance to stop it. It failed in Antrim because the citizens rose up to stop it, it has failed here because we all pushed back long and hard enough to prove how wrong it was. Eolian may have balked at the transmission costs this time around but it doesn’t mean we are safe from further pillage.

    Iberdola has pulled out of the NH project proposed for Danbury and Alexandria (Wild Meadows) because the people there voted in municipal rights ordinances that protect them from these abusers, and SOME state officials there were brave enough to take a stand to stop it. We, in VT need to get Iberdroola off the backs of the people here in Grafton and Windham.

    We need to start letting big, out-of-state land owners know that they have the same rights and responsibilities as all the other citizens of this state. They don’t have MORE rights, they have the same rights. If local zoning, local planning, and Act 250 say no to big industry then that must be true for all, including the greed-infected wealthy who twist the law to make themselves wealthier at our expense.

    Let’s all get back to focusing on keeping Vermont clean and green, like we were doing before Pete Shumlin invited his corporate buddies in to trash the place.

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