Rival companies challenge Aroostook County wind project’s power deal

By Brian Dowling, The Hartford Courant
Posted Oct. 17, 2013, at 7:02 p.m.

The much-touted plan for Connecticut to buy renewable energy from a proposed wind farm in northern Maine has come under fire from two clean energy companies who say the contract award failed to follow bid requirements set by the state.

At issue is more than $1 billion in state-directed energy purchases by Connecticut’s electric utilities, by far the most important development in the state’s effort to meet its renewable energy goals.

The two companies — FuelCell Energy in Danbury and Allco Renewables in New York — failed to win a power contract but are criticizing the decision, saying the project lacked total control of the land for the development, a crucial requirement to win the contract.

The state energy department, which awarded the contract, said the project met the threshold for site control and called the concerns a misreading of the project requirements.

The issue of site control is of such importance because it helps the state reduce the risks involved with the giant power contracts, particularly that an approved project would be delayed or, worse, never materialize.

The two companies say that the Number Nine Wind Farm proposed by EDP Renewables North America in Aroostook County appears to have fallen short of the bid’s requirements to control both the site land and the easements required to send the power to the grid. Their claims rely on the company’s heavily redacted application, which fails to make clear the exact status of company’s control of the site for the wind farm.

“This is the beginning of a long road, and an important road, but we need to point out, at the end of the day, it sets a bad precedent for the state if this is the road map,” Chip Bottone, chief executive of FuelCell Energy, said in an interview.

The state energy department, which awarded the contracts, said the wind project met the requirements for selection, meaning having land control for the site, though the department declined to offer details about the type of site control because EDP Renewables had redacted the information from the version of its application made public.

As for the land control needed to build a required 50-mile transmission line, Deputy Commissioner Katie Dykes said control over that land wasn’t a requirement. Instead, she said, companies just needed to demonstrate they had a plan or schedule by which they would acquire rights to the land.

“They did not need to demonstrate control over land for transmission at the time of selection,” she said. “But they needed to identify steps” to acquire rights to the land “as project milestones.”

The project’s developer, EDP Renewables, said in its application that it had the “majority of land under lease,” and that it was working to acquire land rights to build the transmission line, which are expected eight months after the power contracts are signed. A company spokesman didn’t return a call for comment.

Applications for the contracts were told to “demonstrate that [the developer] has control, or a right to acquire control, over a site for its proposed project, and any necessary easements or rights of way to interconnect the project.”

The perceived lack of total site control is particularly grinding to the companies because a number of projects in the bid were disqualified for similar reasons, including one that made it all the way to the final stage in the process and was recommended, like the EDP Renewables project.

The two companies first raised the concerns about EDP Renewables’ apparent lack of site control in filings with state utility regulators in the past two weeks.

Thomas Melone, chief executive of Allco Renewable Energy, which proposed four solar installations in Connecticut, said the proposal shouldn’t be approved until regulators review documents that show whether EDP Renewables had control of the site when it submitted its application.

FuelCell Energy in Danbury, which proposed a large fuel cell park in Killingly, couldn’t explain why the wind project went forward at all and concluded that it was chosen even though it didn’t adhere to the bid requirements.

“It is not clear why Number Nine was not disqualified for lack of site control,” a lawyer for FuelCell Energy said in a letter to regulators.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

 

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/10/17/business/rival-companies-challenge-aroostook-county-wind-projects-power-deal/ printed on April 24, 2014