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Explore our latest coverage of environmental issues, climate change and more.

Grid Constraints May Hamper NEK Wind Proposal

AP/Toby Talbot

A Connecticut company wants to develop a new wind project on a Northeast Kingdom ridgeline just south of an existing wind development.

But there’s growing concern that the transmission grid in the region is not strong enough to handle more large-scale wind generation.

BNE Energy of Colebrook, Ct. wants to erect six turbines, each capable of producing three megawatts, along the spine of the Lowell Mountains. The site in Eden is adjacent to Green Mountain Power’s 21-turbine Kingdom Community wind project.

BNE Paul Corey said the company has measured the wind resource in Eden and has a long-term lease on 350 acres. BNE recently submitted the Eden proposal to generate power for Connecticut utilities to meet that state’s renewable energy requirements.

“We feel it’s a very good location for a wind project, and it would help mitigate environmental impacts being on the same location as Kingdom Community wind,” Corey said.

While the winds may be strong on the Lowell ridgeline, the nearby transmission network is weak, as Green Mountain power has learned.

The operator of the New England transmission grid has periodically ordered GMP to cut back the power produced by Lowell out of concern that the grid could get overloaded and fail. The same situation has also affected the Sheffield project in the Northeast Kingdom.

David Hallquist, the CEO of the Vermont Electric Cooperative, said the Eden Wind turbines would exacerbate the transmission bottleneck. Hallquist said expensive upgrades would be needed to accommodate the 18 megawatts from Eden.

“Because it’s already constrained by Kingdom Community Wind and Sheffield,” he said. “And that [Eden] project would end up at the same point in Irasburg that those other two wind projects are on. And I can’t imagine any developer spending what could amount to be a hundred million dollars in investment just to put their project on line."

Hallquist said Vermont Electric would oppose the Eden proposal, just like it’s raised concerns about another proposal in the Northeast Kingdom called Seneca Mountain Wind.

“We’re opposed to any additional wind projects, or any additional generation at all in that constrained transmission system,” he said.

Other opposition is likely from residents concerned about the impact on the ridgeline ecosystem and wildlife habitat. Steve Wright from Craftsbury is a former Fish and Wildlife commissioner who worked against the GMP project in Lowell.

“There are all sorts of issues. One issue being connection issues as is normally is the case throughout the Northeast Kingdom and north central Vermont,” he said. “There’s also a major wildlife management area on the southeastern flank of the ridgeline, the Wild Branch Wildlife Management Area with significant bear, moose, and brook trout populations.”   

Paul Corey of BNE Energy said the project can be built with minimal environmental impact. But transmission constraints are a concern, he said.

“We believe there are a couple of different alternatives. And it [the power generated at Eden] wouldn’t be tying into what Green Mountain constructed, it would essentially be going a different route,” he said.

Corey said depending on the outcome of the Connecticut bid process his company could be filing for permits sometime next year.

John worked for VPR in 2001-2021 as reporter and News Director. Previously, John was a staff writer for the Sunday Times Argus and the Sunday Rutland Herald, responsible for breaking stories and in-depth features on local issues. He has also served as Communications Director for the Vermont Health Care Authority and Bureau Chief for UPI in Montpelier.
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