Wind still struggles to reach New England customers during peak demand

Source: E&E • Posted: Monday, August 12, 2013

While last month’s heat wave forced utilities in New England to crank up generation of power from expensive and dirty sources, at least two wind farms in Maine and Vermont were forced to reduce the amount of electricity they produced.

The weak rural system that links wind turbines to the power grid causes wind companies to be routinely taken offline or have their output scaled back.

More than $1 billion has been funneled into wind turbines in northern Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont within the last decade. And wind power has increased from 2 megawatts of capacity in 2005 to roughly 700 MW in the region today.

Still, wind turbines built on far-off mountain ridges and hilltops have difficultly with bottlenecks as they transfer electricity to the power grid. And the idea of taking wind producers offline, known as curtailment, is being scrutinized.

Grid operator ISO New England is being too cautious and not planning ahead to integrate renewable energy into the grid, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) and the state’s largest utility, Green Mountain Power, suggested.

“What we are encountering now are growing pains,” said Rich Sedano of the Montpelier, Vt.-based Regulatory Assistance Project. “Part of it is the expectation of ISO New England, which is paid to be conservative. … If there were a problem with reliability, no one would complain about their being too conservative” (Ring/Sharp, AP/Boston Globe, Aug. 9)