Northeast Kingdom Wind Project On Hold Due To Grid Constraints
A large scale wind development planned for a remote part of the Northeast Kingdom is on hold for now.
Eolian Renewable Energy of Portsmouth, N.H, the developer of the Seneca Mountain wind project, has withdrawn its request to connect to the New England electric grid. The company faced expensive upgrades to the regional transmission network before it could distribute its power.
The problems with the regional electric grid were highlighted last summer when some wind projects in Vermont and Maine had to be dialed back because the system couldn’t handle the load.
"They just completed an inter-connect study which showed they would have to spend $86 million in order to connect to that grid and not negatively impact the capacity factors of the existing wind projects at Kingdom Community Wind and Sheffield." - David Hallquist, CEO, Vermont Electric Co-op, on Seneca Wind's problems with the transmission grid
The same constraints of a weak transmission network faced the Seneca Mountain wind project planned for Essex County.
David Hallquist is the CEO of the Vermont Electric Cooperative. He’s raised repeated questions about the Seneca project and its impact on the grid. He says that the new wind development would affect the output of two other wind projects in the Northeast Kingdom. So he says Seneca’s decision to pull back makes sense.
“They just completed an inter-connect study which showed they would have to spend $86 million in order to connect to that grid and not negatively impact the capacity factors of the existing wind projects at Kingdom Community Wind and Sheffield, which is what our concern was,” he said.
Hallquist says Seneca could generate without disrupting the other projects once the upgrades were made. But he questioned the economics of that investment for a project that would produce about the same amount of electricity as Green Mountain Power’s Kingdom Community Wind project in Lowell.
“Of course, the next question you ask is why would anybody spend $86 million on a project about the size of KCW? Hallquist said. “Because with KCW, the all-in costs were about $165 million; adding another $86 million to that would certainly make it not worth doing.”
The CEO of Seneca’s parent company, EolianRenewables, did not respond to messages requesting comment.
But in a notice emailed to the ISO-New England –regional grid operator, CEO Jack Kenworthy said the company was “disappointed by the need to make this decision after so much effort.”
Seneca had sought support in the Northeast Kingdom but several towns had rejected the proposal.
Mark Whitworth is executive director of Energize Vermont, an organization which says it supports Vermont-scale renewable energy projects. Energize was against the Seneca development. And Whitworth, who lives in Newark, where some of the towers were originally planned, was pleased that the wind development is hold.
“The project was proposed to be sited in one of the most ecologically sensitive areas in the state. It would have altered the way of life up here,” he said. “It would have interfered what the people in the Kingdom think the economic development path is through eco-tourism and geo-tourism.”
Whitworth and other opponents say they’re waiting for a final decision from Seneca. But if the company does re-apply to connect to the transmission grid it will have to wait in line behind other projects.