Thursday, August 8, 2013

Regional grid answers Vt gov. on wind restrictions

MONTPELIER, Vt. -- Vermont's largest electric utility knew the limits of its Lowell Mountain wind project and that it would be asked to keep electricity generated there off the grid from time to time, the head of New England's electric grid wrote in a letter to Gov. Peter Shumlin.
Gordon van Welie, the president of grid operator ISO New England, was responding to a letter from Shumlin last month in which Shumlin said he felt ISO New England needlessly kept Lowell Mountain power off the grid at a time of high demand, a heat wave July 19. During that time, the utility, Green Mountain Power, was also asked to produce power with its least efficient and environmentally dirtier jet engine and diesel generators.
Van Welie countered in his letter dated Tuesday that by preventing Green Mountain Power's wind project from sending all the power it was capable of producing to the grid during the heat wave, it enabled the grid to accept renewable energy from other, unnamed, nearby renewable energy providers.
The wind project "was competing with other wind and hydropower resources for limited space on the transmission system," van Welie wrote in the letter, dated Tuesday.
The exchange highlights an ongoing difference of opinion between the grid operator and Green Mountain Power and the Shumlin administration about the best, most reliable way to bring electricity produced by wind farms and other renewable energy projects into homes and businesses.
Van Welie's letter acknowledged the need to find better ways to integrate small-scale projects into the grid, but it also showed the continuing differences of opinion about the best way to get wind-produced electricity to as many customers as possible, Vermont Deputy Public Service Commissioner Darren Springer said Wednesday.
He said he hadn't realized that other renewable electricity producers were able to send power to the grid after the Lowell Mountain project was curtailed as van Welie's letter said.
"Clearly, there are some differences of opinion of ISO's interpretations of events and the perspective of the state of Vermont and other stakeholders," Springer said.
"If they're claiming they were curtailing one renewable to bring on other renewables, that would be interesting. We'd like to talk more about that," he said.
Van Welie's letter said the restrictions on the Lowell project would be reduced, but not eliminated, once a specialized piece of equipment known as synchronous converter is installed.
Green Mountain Power spokesman Robert Dostis said that what was missing from van Welie's letter was a plan and timeline for achieving maximum use of existing and planned renewable energy resources in New England. The letter also failed to note that GMP had worked with ISO New England for at least two years in planning the Lowell project without being told there would be interconnection issues, he said.
"If, as a region, every state wants to incorporate more renewable (power) generation, it's important that ISO New England give greater certainty that when those resources are producing power that they are incorporated into the grid and they are not curtailed," Dostis said.