LOWELL - Construction is now underway on the controversial Lowell Mountain wind project after three years of planning and preparation. On Friday, J.A. McDonald of Lyndon Center started construction on a staging area and access road in the foothills of the mountain range.
Green Mountain Power (GMP) is spearheading the construction project called Kingdom Community Wind. The 63-megawatt wind energy project will be up and running by December 2012, Dotty Schnure, spokesperson for GMP, said Tuesday.
December 2012 is a target date for GMP in order to qualify for federal tax production credits of approximately $47-million. The price tag on the project is forecasted at $156-million.
GMP officials say they will remain transparent throughout the process.
The 21 turbines, which will be 459 feet tall at the tip of the blade and span three miles along the ridge line, will provide enough power for approximately 24,000 homes. According to GMP, the project will provide the lowest cost, new renewable energy available to GMP customers and the members of the Vermont Electric Coop (VEC).
"We are extremely excited to start construction on this important local, renewable energy project," said Mary Powell, President and CEO of Green Mountain Power. "In addition to producing clean and reliable power for our customers and VEC members, Kingdom Community Wind is the most affordable new renewable energy available."
Kingdom Community Wind received a certificate of public good from the Vermont Public Service Board in late May. GMP has met all the pre-construction conditions in the certificate and received all of the permits required to begin construction, including permits related to protecting water quality. Those permits were issued in late August.
GMP says the project will boost the state and local economy and has already employed Vermonters and Vermont firms in the pre-construction phase of the project. More than 90 different Vermont firms and vendors have participated in the project to date, with more than $4 million already invested in those companies.
In the coming weeks, contractors, including Vermont-based contractors like J.A. McDonald of Lyndon Center and Bates & Murray of Barre, will be adding additional local employees to their Vermont employee base to work on Kingdom Community Wind.
"This is a local energy project built by Vermonters for Vermonters," said Mary Powell with GMP. "Through tax payments to the town of Lowell, the state education fund, the Good Neighbor Fund for surrounding towns and the economic activity created by the project's construction, as well as competitively priced energy for many years to come, this project is a true win-win for all involved. We are grateful for the support we have received from the community."
Construction will consist of two affiliated projects, a press release from GMP stated. The first is the construction from the bottom of the mountain to the top, and construction of the turbines, which will be complete and running by the end of 2012. The second includes upgrades to VEC's transmission system between Lowell and Jay. VEC sought the upgrades as part of its long-term capital plan, but through a partnership with GMP is now able to move more quickly on a more robust upgrade. GMP is paying for part of the upgrade and maintenance involved for 25 years.
"Our 40-year-old transmission system between Lowell and Jay needed to be upgraded to ensure safety and reliability," said David Hallquist, CEO of the Vermont Electric Coop. "Our members have also told us that they want clean, local and affordable electricity. Our partnership with GMP on this renewable wind project will help us meet those requests in a way that keeps rates as low as possible."
"We are committed to the highest environmental standards," said Powell. "After all, a major reason for building a renewable wind project is to reduce carbon emissions and protect our natural environment. That is why it is so important that we maintain a strong environmental ethic in every aspect of Kingdom Community Wind."
GMP says there will be biological monitoring of streams during and following construction. GMP has also voluntarily collected data about the water chemistry of all the streams around the project.
Concerns over Environmental impacts, the cost of the project as well as aesthetics have been raised by opponents on the project.