Ridge Protectors, a citizens group opposed to a wind farm to be sited in Vermont’s North East Kingdom have filed an appeal to the Vermont Supreme Court to have the certificate of public good for the project invalidated.
The appeal contends that, among other things, the Public Service board found that UPC, the company developing the project, had failed to negotiate stably priced power contracts with Vermont utilities, and that, in the absence of these contracts, the project would not “provide and economic benefit to Vermonters sufficient to offset the project’s significant environmental impacts”.
The economic issue is one that is at the heart of the matter. One of the big selling points for the project, on the Massachusetts based UPC Wind’s Web site for the project is cheap local power. From the “power” tab, we are given a list of towns near Sheffield that “have shown strong interest in purchasing energy generated at the Sheffield project”. Another tab, under economic benefits states “Energy for Vermont utilities at competitive market rates”.
“Unfortunately, the pricing terms of the Vermont Utilities power purchases do not capture one of the major economic advantages of renewable energy: the free, and thus stable, cost of the fuel. Instead the power contracts between UPC and Vermont utilities are largely indexed to regional power market prices, which are both highly volitile and expected to increase over time”.
Score a point for Ridge Protectors.
The Public Service Board does go on to address this in condition number three of the certificate of public good, which states that UPC shall “make all reasonable efforts to enter into diverse, long term, stably priced power contracts with Vermont Utilities”.
The ball bounces back across the court.
These contracts are to be produced prior to the commencement of construction. Has construction started without these contracts in place? If so, the Ridge Protectors appeal would seem like a sure win.
In either case, it seems that not only does the generation technology need to be developed to take advantage of clean power sources, the contracting and pricing mechanisms need development as well.