New England’s ‘Largest’ Renewables Procurement Is All Wind, But Less Than Envisioned


New England's 'Largest' Renewables Procurement Is All Wind, But Less Than Envisioned Massachusetts regulators have officially signed off on what the Gov. Deval Patrick administration is hailing as ‘the largest procurement of renewable energy in New England.’ The 12 long-term wind power purchase agreements (PPAs) equal an impressive 409 MW from three projects in Maine and New Hampshire; however, due to issues regarding three other wind farms, the deals still represent 156 MW less than what Massachusetts' utility companies had originally proposed last year.

According to the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, the PPAs carry a weighted average price of less than $0.08/kWh, are expected to save ratepayers $853 million over the contracts' lifetime, and will account for about 2.5% of each utility's total electricity sales.

"The Patrick administration is committed to diversifying our fuel sources with affordable, clean energy," says Rick Sullivan, secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, in a statement. "These contracts will save ratepayers money and significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions from our power sector."

The Department of Public Utilities (DPU) approved the agreements for the state's four electric distribution companies: National Grid, NSTAR Electric, Unitil and Western Massachusetts Electric Co. As mandated by a new law, the companies had issued a joint request for proposals for renewables in 2013 and later filed a plan to procure 565 MW from six wind projects. According to a DPU document, though, the utilities eventually withdrew their requests for contracts with three of the wind farms.

Iberdrola Renewables had two projects up for consideration but took one off the list. The DPU document says the developer terminated the PPAs for its 99 MW Fletcher Mountain wind farm in New Hampshire "due to failure to receive corporate approval for the project.’

Iberdrola Renewables spokesperson Paul Copleman tells NAW, "We expected to have received our interconnection study and to have cleared other uncertainties by that time last year, and they were delayed. With this drift, the PPA commitments were tracking ahead of our development schedule." Nonetheless, he says Iberdrola is continuing to work on the project.

The developer's 75.9 MW Wild Meadows project, also in New Hampshire, did get its PPAs approved, and Copleman praises Massachusetts for its renewables push.

"Massachusetts' regulatory and policy measures, thanks to the Patrick administration and the legislature, encourage investment in clean energy, particularly the long-term contracting provision," he says.

But, as it turns out, Iberdrola has halted work indefinitely on the Wild Meadows project. The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) recently returned the project application, saying it was incomplete and ordering the developer to file a new proposal.

"After discussions with local stakeholders, we've recently decided that it's best to pause and reevaluate the application process on our estimated $150 million investment decision at Wild Meadows," Copleman says. "There is no specific timetable for any further decision at this point."

He adds that the company is instead focusing its efforts on resolving issues with an already-operating wind farm in the state, the 48 MW Groton project. "Some people have raised an issue with the permit granted to us by the SEC based on some work that was done during construction and some operational questions raised by the state fire marshal," explains Copleman.

Separately, the Massachusetts utilities terminated all contracts with Exergy Development Group. The DPU document simply says the decision was based on "the developer's failure to post the required security in accordance with the proposed contracts."

At press time, Exergy Development Group did not respond to requests for comment.

First Wind, meanwhile, owns two of the three projects that have won PPAs with the Massachusetts utilities. The company's Evergreen Wind II LLC subsidiary is building the Oakfield Wind facility in Maine. The 147 MW project, consisting of 49 3-MW Vestas turbines, has all necessary permits and approvals. Early construction work began late last year.

In addition, subsidiary Blue Sky West LLC is developing the 186 MW Bingham Wind project. The project will feature 62 3-MW Vestas turbines and is being reviewed by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. The company hopes to start construction on that project later this year.

"We're thrilled that the power purchase agreements were approved by the Massachusetts DPU," comments John Lamontagne, a First Wind spokesperson. "This is an important milestone for both projects and a great step for bringing more renewable power to the state."

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