GMP Wants Speedy Review Of Lowell Wind Project
07/08/10 7:34AM By John Dillon  Download MP3
(Host) Green Mountain Power wants to get a wind project built in the Northeast Kingdom by the end of 2012 - before federal tax credits expire.
The Vermont Public Service Board formally opened consideration of the project this week. And GMP has proposed an aggressive schedule for the regulatory review.
VPR's John Dillon reports:
(Dillon) Green Mountain Power and Vermont Electric Co-op want to build 21 turbines on the Lowell Mountain ridgeline to produce a maximum 63 megawatts.
GMP wants a decision from the Public Service Board by late April next year. It hopes to begin construction next summer and have the project producing power by the end of 2012.
Company spokesman Robert Dostis says the tight timeline is driven by the possible expiration of federal tax credits. He said the credits are an essential part of the project business plan.
(Dostis) "The production tax credit really makes the project affordable. In the end, it's the customers who pay for this. Our job is to bring the most cost-effective electricity to our customers. Building generation as a utility helps us accomplish that. But what makes the economics work is the availability of that production tax credit."
(Dillon) The federal tax credits are now set to expire at the end of 2012. In the past, Congress has routinely renewed them. But Dostis says GMP cannot just assume that the credits will be extended.
(Dostis) "So we will not buy turbines unless we know either the production tax credit is going to be extended - which by the time we're in the market for the turbines we probably will not know - which means then that we have to be assured that we can have those turbines up and running by the end of 2012, so we can take advantage of those incentives."
(Dillon) Project opponents have asked the PSB for more time to conduct studies and gather information. Jared Margolis represents the Lowell Mountain Group. He pointed out that GMP has already filed 1,300 pages of documents with the board.
(Margolis) "The petitioners' proposed schedule has us pre-filing testimony at the end of September. That is not very long from now, and is just absolutely not enough time for us to do what we need to do to be ready for that."
(Dillon) Lowell resident Don Nelson was also at the PSB hearing. His family farm is at the foot of Lowell Mountain, and Nelson worries about the project's environmental and aesthetic impact.
(Nelson) "To me the worst thing we can do in the state of Vermont is throw away our mountains. They want to blast the tops of the mountains, put up these things. And he admitted right there the only reason he's doing it is for tax credits and stuff like that. We're planning our energy future on subsidies that are going to come to an end."
(Dillon) GMP says the project can be built with minimal impact on the environment or the views in the Northeast Kingdom.
The Public Service Board said it will set a schedule soon in the Lowell Mountain case.
For VPR News, I'm John Dillon in Montpelier.