New study ordered for Swanton Wind project

St. Albans Messenger, June 24, 2017

PSB requires system-wide impact analysis

Messenger Staff Writer

SWANTON — The Public Service Board will not set any further dates for its regulatory review of Swanton Wind until the project developers file, “at a minimum,” a complete System Impact Study.

The board announced its decision in an order issued Thursday, responding to proposals to reschedule the board’s review process, which has bloated beyond the original timeline determined in October 2016.

The board’s decision concurs with assertions the Department of Public Service (DPS) made in a June 2 filing. The DPS asserted that Swanton Wind’s application for a “Certificate of Public Good,” essentially a permit to begin the construction process, does not contain necessary information regarding system stability and reliability and the project’s impact on Vermont utilities and customers.

Public Service Board members James Volz and Margaret Cheney at a May scheduling conference for Swanton Wind.

The DPS also asserted that Swanton Wind’s prefiled testimony on the need for the project had become irrelevant, since the Public Service Board dismissed the project’s petition for a power purchase agreement in a separate board docket closed months after the filing of Swanton Wind’s application.

The board concurred with both DPS assertions.

“While the Board in the past has made affirmative findings under these two criteria conditioned upon the completion of and compliance with a final [System Impact Study], the unique circumstances of this case compel us to conclude that the complete and final [System Impact Study] must be part of the evidentiary record prior to the technical hearings.”

A System Impact Study (SIS) is just that — a study of a proposed power project’s affect on the system with which it would be interconnected.

“The region of Vermont where this project is proposed to be located experiences transmission capacity issues that can lead to curtailment of existing generation facilities, a situation that could be influenced by the proposed project,” according to the board.

Under these circumstances, the board wrote, “we decline to establish a complete schedule until the complete and final SIS is filed.”

The board did not set a deadline for Swanton Wind to due so, beyond saying that the SIS must be filed “within a reasonable time.” Preparing the SIS is at least partially out of the project developers’ hands, the board wrote. However, Swanton Wind must file a status report on the SIS within the next two weeks, including the expected completion and filing dates of the study.

The board also ordered Swanton Wind to file updates on the study’s progress every 30 days after that initial report, including “any decision by Swanton Wind to suspend or abandon its pursuit of a complete and final SIS.”

The DPS’s filing raised significant questions about the need for the project, the Public Service Board wrote.

“We remind Swanton Wind that the initial burden of production and the ultimate burden of persuasion are its responsibilities to meet if it is to receive a certificate of public good in this matter,” the board wrote.

“If and when Swanton Wind submits the final and complete SIS, the Board will request any further input from the parties regarding moving this proceeding forward.”

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