NorthWestern counters Gaelectric arguments over wind project

Northwestern Corp. told the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that a wind power developer should not, in effect, be allowed to improperly hold on to a queue position for its delayed project.

NorthWestern on May 6 submitted its answer to an April 21 complaint or in the alternative request for waiver submitted by Gaelectric LLC and Jawbone Wind Farm LLC (collectively called “Gaelectric” in the filing).

In October 2012, Gaelectric voluntarily executed three conforming NorthWestern transmission service agreements (TSAs) for 130 MW of firm point-to-point service (called the “130 MW TSAs”) beginning Oct. 1, 2014, the commencement date requested by Gaelectric. NorthWestern tendered the service agreements to Gaelectric after it determined that 130 MW of transmission capacity was available to deliver power from Gaelectric’s planned Jawbone project to NorthWestern’s interface with the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), without any upgrades or contingencies.

Because Gaelectric executed the 130 MW TSAs, NorthWestern set this capacity aside for Gaelectric and could not offer it to several other transmission customers who had requested that available capacity.

In the April 21 complaint, Gaelectric pursues two strategies to continue to tie up this 130 MW of available capacity beyond Oct. 1, 2014, without paying to reserve it as NorthWestern’s Montana Open Access Transmission Tariff (NWMT OATT) requires, NorthWestern said.

  • First, Gaelectric files a complaint against NorthWestern arguing that: the 130 MW TSAs are unjust and unreasonable because NorthWestern violated its tariff by requiring Gaelectric to execute the agreements or lose its senior queue position; and the TSAs should be revised to provide that the service commencement date is delayed until a corresponding amount of capacity becomes available on BPA’s transmission system.
  • Second, in the alternative, Gaelectric requests waiver of its obligation to pay a non-refundable fee to extend the service commencement date under Section 17.7 of NWMT OATT until the entire requested 460 MW of transmission capacity is available across NorthWestern’s and BPA’s transmission systems.

The commission should reject both the complaint and the alternative request for waiver, NorthWestern argued. First, it said there is no support for Gaelectric’s suggestion that it executed the 130 MW TSAs against its will because NorthWestern stated that it would lose its queue position if it did not execute them. To the contrary, Gaelectric voluntarily—indeed, eagerly—executed the agreements in an effort to market its output after it had secured 80 MW of available transmission service on BPA’s system, NorthWestern said.

In any event, even if Gaelectric could demonstrate that it executed the 130 MW TSAs only out of concern that it would lose its queue position, the complaint still should be denied, NorthWestern added. The NWMT OATT, and commission precedent, obligated NorthWestern to tender this 130 MW of capacity—which was available without any upgrades or contingencies—to Gaelectric and obligated Gaelectric to either accept the available capacity or withdraw from the queue and free up that capacity for use by other transmission customers.

The alternative request for waiver similarly should be denied because Gaelectric has failed to establish good cause for waiver of Section 17.7, which serves the valuable purpose of preserving the integrity of the transmission queue and preventing parties from tying up available transmission capacity that could be released to others, NorthWestern added. Gaelectric also failed to demonstrate that its waiver request is of limited scope, as Gaelectric asks that its waiver extend for an indefinite and potentially lengthy period until 460 MW of capacity is available across both the NorthWestern and BPA systems.

Gaelectric USA Ltd., through its subsidiaries, including Gaelectric LLC and Jawbone Wind Farm, is a developer of renewable power generation and energy storage projects throughout the U.S. Gaelectric USA is controlled by Gaelectric Holdings Plc, which is based in Ireland. Gaelectric operates a regional development office in Montana that is focused on multiple wind development projects in Montana and elsewhere in the United States. Jawbone Wind Farm is a special purpose vehicle created to develop the 460-MW Jawbone project. 

A company contact is: Charles Shawley, Managing Director, Gaelectric LLC, 233 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 1820, Chicago, IL 60601, Tel: (312) 929-4044, cshawley@gaelectric.ie.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.