Green Mountain Power’s Lowell wind project is facing a potential $11 million cost increase because of transmission upgrades requested by the operators of the New England electric grid.
On the Lowell ridgeline, heavy equipment has cut a rugged road needed to haul the cranes and trucks that will deliver 21 turbines this summer.
GMP spokesman David Coriell says the turbines will be producing power by the end of the year.
"We are right on schedule," he said. "Fortunately the mild winter helped us really get ahead of some of the excavation work that we otherwise would have been a little slower on."
GMP estimates the project will cost about $150 million. But the price may jump by about 7 percent because of a recent decision by ISO-New England, which operates the regional grid.
ISO studied the impact of the Lowell project on the transmission network and concluded that GMP will need to invest in a new voltage control system. The expensive component is called a "dynamic reactive device" and it’s designed to balance the impact of that much electricity flowing into the grid.
GMP spokeswoman Dorothy Schnure said the utility doesn’t agree with ISO New England’s conclusion. "We’re still talking with them about whether there’s some less expensive alternatives that would still solve the issue," she said.
"They’ve decided under certain circumstances if the system is operating in a very specific way that voltage could be impacted," Schnure added. "What we’re doing is we’re still looking at the entire system and finding if there’s another, less expensive way to deal with the scenario that they’ve identified."
Lawyer Jared Margolis represented the towns of Albany and Craftsbury as GMP sought approval for the wind project before the Public Service Board. Margolis said ratepayers will ultimately have to pay for any additional cost.
"My clients, the towns of Craftsbury and Albany, were concerned about that because they’re ratepayers and this is going to increase their bills and it wasn’t considered by the board," he said. "This project is already very expensive… and this is only going to increase those costs to the consumers."
But GMP says even with the additional $11 million the Lowell project will still produce low cost renewable electricity.