Wind Farm, Solar Project Chosen For State Clean Energy Push

September 21, 2013 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

The state energy department on Friday approved two clean energy projects — a wind farm in Maine and a solar array in Sprague and Lisbon — that will help Connecticut reach its accelerating renewable energy goals.

Within two years, the two will generate 3.5 percent of the state’s electric load, some 270 megawatts, at prices that are among the lowest from both renewable projects and conventional fossil-fuel plants in the region, state officials said.

Most will be imported into the state, the Maine wind project providing 250 megawatts to the in-state solar project’s 20.

In Aroostook County, Maine, EDP Renewables North America will build a 250-megawatt wind farm, called the Number Nine Wind Farm, on 94 acres of private land used now for timber production.

Energy officials, in a conference call with reporters, acknowledged that the 400-some miles between Connecticut and the project in northern Maine poses a transmission concern, one under close consideration by the region’s electric grid. Last week, ISO-New England identified parts of northern New England, including Maine, as a region with significant bottled-in energy, which means there’s more power plants than transmission capacity.

In Sprague and Lisbon, Heliosage Energy will build a 20-megawatt solar farm, called the Fusion Solar Center, on 180 acres off of Potash Hill Road. In its application, the company said it has secured financing from an unnamed Fortune 500 utility.

Including clean energy subsidies, both projects priced in at under 8 cents per kilowatt hour, including subsidies, a surprisingly low mark for renewable energy in the state. The average bid came in at 12.8 cents per kilowatt hour, and the highest was 20 cents.

One reason for the low rate was that developers will likely qualify for a federal production tax credit that expires at the end of the year. Others include scale and competition, according to officials.

“These projects bring real benefits — cleaner power with no air emissions and improved reliability by diversifying our energy portfolio — all at a cost comparable to electricity generated from conventional power plants,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said in a written statement.

The energy department, in July, posted a request for proposals for clean energy projects in New England, searching for low-cost renewable power that could be contracted for up to 20 years. Developers responded with 47 proposals, mostly wind-powered, for projects throughout New England, including a high-profile biomass-, solar- and fuel cell-project planned for Montville by NRG Energy.

To choose, energy officials scored the projects on: price, weighted at 80 percent; reliability, at 15 percent; and feasibility, at 5 percent.

The developers of the two projects have signed long-term agreements to sell the power to Connecticut Light Power and United Illuminating, EDP a 15-year deal, and Heliosage a 20-year. The agreements will next be sent to state regulators for approval.

Both projects are expected to be online by the end of 2016.

This approach, contracting directly with developers, differs substantially how the state bought renewable power before to meet its clean energy goal, which says the state needs to get 20 percent of its power from clean sources by 2020.

Initially, the state’s electric companies had to buy renewable energy credits from clean sources like and biomass plants. But the ups and downs of the market for the credits was a disincentive for developers.

The new approach, established by a new law passed by the General Assembly last spring, gives developers more certainty, with long-term agreements that set prices and subsidy levels.

Daniel C. Esty, commissioner of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said the state’ “approach to clean energy can spark innovation and competition among various technologies and drive down costs.”

“We had wind, solar, fuel cells, tidal and biomass all competing for the same long term power contracts with the electric distribution companies — and the clear winners were Connecticut’s ratepayers,” he said.

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