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Wind Developer: No Buyer Yet For Deerfield Project

The developer of a major wind project in the Green Mountain National Forest has been unable to reach an agreement to sell the power it would produce.

The project’s state permit is contingent on a long term power purchase agreement with a Vermont utility. But the developer says it’s not backing out at this point.

The Deerfield Wind project would consist of 15 turbines on ridge tops in Searsburg and Readsboro.  Its developer is a subsidiary of the Spanish energy giant Iberdrola Renewables.

The project was permitted by the state in 2010 and later approved by the Green Mountain National Forest.

If built, it would be the country’s first commercial wind project on National Forest lands.

But so far the developers haven’t found a purchaser for the 30 megawatts of power  it would generate.

Iberdrola spokesman Paul Copleman says that can be a deal breaker.

“It’s very likely that absent a power purchase in hand we would not make a decision to begin construction,” Copleman says.

But Copleman says that doesn’t mean Iberdrola is backing away from the Deerfield project.  He says the company is still pursuing a market for its power.

“And while we don’t have a deal right now,” he says, “We think this is a great site for a wind farm and we’re pursuing different avenues to bring it to fruition and we look forward to moving it forward.”

Copleman says the current low power prices are making negotiations more difficult -- and the price of power harder to predict.

The abundance of cheap natural gas has been a game changer in the regional wholesale power market.

The owner of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant has linked its decision to close in 2014 to declining wholesale prices caused by inexpensive natural gas.

Copleman did say a contract has to make sense for both the buyer and the seller.

“Any of these arrangements has to make sense for both parties,” he says. “And a lot goes into that discussion and a lot goes into making a project economically viable.”

Copleman says Iberdrola has many projects around the country in various stages of development.

“So we’re always evaluating those to pursue the ones that we think make the most sense,” he explains. “But it’s not to say that we don’t believe in a particular project or a particular state, and feel that the market may be different three or five years from now.”

One potential buyer is Green Mountain Power, the state’s largest utility. A spokesperson for the company wouldn’t comment on negotiations that are still in progress.

The Deerfield Wind project is currently tied up in litigation that’s expected to continue through the spring.

Susan Keese was VPR's southern Vermont reporter, based at the VPR studio in Manchester at Burr & Burton Academy. After many years as a print journalist and magazine writer, Susan started producing stories for VPR in 2002. From 2007-2009, she worked as a producer, helping to launch the noontime show Vermont Edition. Susan has won numerous journalism awards, including two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for her reporting on VPR. She wrote a column for the Sunday Rutland Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus. Her work has appeared in Vermont Life, the Boston Globe Magazine, The New York Times and other publications, as well as on NPR.
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