HOLLAND — Vermont Electric Cooperative is facing a large new cost because there’s too much renewable energy entering the Northeast Kingdom electric grid - and the proposed Dairy Air Wind turbine will only make it worse.
That’s why VEC and Green Mountain Power are opposing the 2.2-megawatt turbine proposed for Dairy Air Farm on School Road in Holland, according to filings with the Vermont Public Service Board.
Also joining the opposition is a second Quebec town, Barnston-Ouest (Barnston-West).
Both VEC and GMP told the board the proposed 499-foot-tall turbine would cause economic harm to VEC and GMP because northern Vermont already has constraints on its transmission system.
That’s causing curtailments to their own Kingdom Community Wind turbines at Lowell and is not consistent with the state’s comprehensive energy plan because it hinders other renewable energy sources, both utilities are saying.
New regulations imposed last year by the New England electric grid operators at ISO-NE have cost VEC $550,000 in new charges in six months alone between October 2016 and March 2017, according to the filing.
And that doesn’t include the cost of lost production when wind turbines at Lowell and Sheffield are curtailed by ISO-NE when there’s too much power in the grid in an area that doesn’t need it.
In a motion to intervene in the review of Dairy Air Wind, VEC attorney Victoria Brown states that VEC has contracts to buy electricity from GMP from Lowell’s 21 turbines, the 16 at Sheffield and from Hydro Quebec at the Highgate connection.
VEC also hosts a number of smaller renewable energy projects as well.
Some of these projects are causing congestion at what’s called the Sheffield Highgate Export Interface, Brown states.
When there’s congestion, ISO-NE curtails other renewable energy sources like at Lowell and Sheffield, she stated.
“The rule change (at ISO-NE) has greatly increased the number of hours of congestion at generator nodes with the Sheffield Highgate Export Interface, significantly eroding the value of the resources and thus increasing costs to VEC members,” Brown wrote.
Congestion in what’s called the Day-Ahead Market increased to 42 percent of the time in that six-month period between October 2016 and March 2017, up from 7 percent in the same period a year before that, Brown wrote.
In what’s called the Real-Time Market, the congestion was up to 22 percent in the same period, up from 1 percent the year before.
“These curtailments come at a significant cost to VEC (and the other utilities who share the output of these projects),” she added.
The $550,000 that VEC had to bear in that six-month period is up from $4,000 the year before, she wrote.
And that doesn’t include the value of the lost production from curtailed wind turbines at Lowell and Sheffield.
“The impacts of the Kingdom Community Wind turbines are especially severe, because under the power purchase agreement with GMP, VEC is obligated to pay its percentage share (12.7 percent) of the project’s operating costs - regardless of the output,” Brown wrote.
While she said it’s hard to quantify the cost of the harm, “the addition of a new, large generator into the Sheffield Highgate Export Interface will exacerbate the curtailments, causing further harm to VEC members.”
“GMP shares the concerns and economic interests expressed by Vermont Electric Cooperative,” according to a motion to intervene by GMP attorney Carolyn Browne Anderson.
“The project is likely to result in economic harm to GMP,” Anderson wrote, echoing VEC’s concerns.
VEC participated in Kingdom Community Wind as part of the state’s energy plan, which envisions in-state renewable energy produced near where it is consumed, not in an area that has too much already, Brown wrote.
VEC also notes that there will be an undue adverse impact because transmission lines will have to be upgraded to handle the electricity from the Dairy Air Wind turbine.
Quebec Reaction Grows
Barnston-Ouest has applied to intervene in the review of Dairy Air Wind, joining Coaticook, Quebec, in protesting the visual and economic impact of a large turbine.
“We are also afraid that it will encourage other similar projects in our area,” Barnston-Ouest officials wrote.
The Public Service Board is expected to conduct a site visit and public hearing in Holland sometime during the first week in June.