Wood-fired plan still lacking power contract
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | March 01,2013
SPRINGFIELD — The North Springfield Sustainable Energy Project does not help meet the state’s energy needs or contribute to the state’s renewable energy goals, according to the director of energy policy and planning for the Department of Public Service.
“Without a power purchase agreement between the proposed facility and a Vermont utility, the proposed facility does not contribute to either the state’s renewable energy goals or its need for electric service,” Asa Hopkins wrote in follow-up, pre-filed testimony filed with the board last week.
Hopkins took issue with statements by Dan Ingold of Weston Solutions, which is one of two companies that want to build a 35-megawatt wood chip plant in the North Springfield Industrial Park.
Hopkins, who declined to comment Thursday, also testified the project would not contribute to overall renewable energy goals.
“None of the state’s SPEED goals, the goals of the Vermont 25 x 25 Initiative, or the needs of the state’s utilities for energy or capacity is met by the proposed facility in the absence of a PPA (power purchase agreement) with a Vermont retail utility,” he concluded.
SPEED stands for Sustainable Priced Energy Development Program, and the initiative also deals with state renewable energy programs.
Ingold said Wednesday that Hopkins’ testimony — filed in advance of upcoming technical hearings before the Public Service Board — was a “kick in the pants” for the project to get a contract with a utility completed.
Ingold said Weston and Winstanley Enterprises, the two companies that make up the project, had been negotiating for a long time without success so far.
“That’s what we’re working toward, have been in active talks for months and months and months,” said Ingold. “We want this to be a Vermont project.”
Ingold downplayed Hopkins’ testimony, calling it a “minor” issue that would be resolved.
Ingold said he and others were working to reach legal agreements with various state agencies to resolve concerns about the wood-fired plant.
He said the project recently reached a memorandum of understanding with the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets over the issue of invasive species, specifically insects.
The state is concerned that wood chips harboring several dangerous insects such as the emerald ash borer and the Asian long-horned beetle, could be brought into Springfield via the chips.
Under the agreement, all wood chips must be no bigger than 1 inch square.
But Robert Kischko, chairman of North Springfield Action Group, which opposes the wood-fired project, said the 1-inch limit wasn’t adequate to safeguard the state from the insects.
Ingold said he hoped the state would also reach agreements with the Agency of Natural Resources over concerns that deal primarily with forest resources.