Long-stalled West Virginia wind project about to be revived

Because it has found a possible, unnamed buyer for its wind project in Grant County, AES New Creek LLC on Aug. 8 asked the West Virginia Public Service Commission for certain changes to a 2009 commission approval for this project.

In its September 2009 final order in this docket, the commission authorized AES New Creek to construct a wind power generating facility of up to 160 MW in size in Grant County. In granting the siting certificate, the commission included a typical condition that the certificate would become invalid if AES New Creek had not commenced construction within five years of the date the final certificate is granted without petitioning the commission for approval to expand this time frame.

AES New Creek filed a verified statement evidencing compliance with the order’s preconstruction conditions in December 2011. AES New Creek commenced construction in 2012, removing trees, conducting site and switchyard grading, and working on the project access road.

Turbine micrositing required AES New Creek to obtain revised determinations of no hazard from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Unfortunately, said the company, unexpected changes in FAA requirements substantially delayed issuance of approvals. When it became apparent that the FAA issue would not be resolved quickly, AES New Creek stopped construction, requiring it to discontinue nearly-completed negotiations with a power purchase agreement (PPA) counterparty. Although technical issues with the FAA have been resolved, these events prevented AES New Creek from obtaining a PPA that would allow a reasonable financial arrangement to permit the project to be built.

“Recently, AES New Creek has had promising negotiations with an established wind power developer (‘Buyer’)’ under which Buyer would acquire the membership interests in AES New Creek (‘Acquisition’) and proceed to finance, construct, and operate the Project,” the company said. “However, the five-year period specified in Preconstruction Condition 6 will elapse on September 30, 2014. Before committing to the Acquisition, Buyer wishes to confirm that the Commission will extend the siting certificate validity period. AES New Creek is likewise interested in such an extension, whether or not the Acquisition is completed.”

The project is ready for financing and construction, AES New Creek added. All permits, authorizations, approvals, and arrangements with regulatory agencies continue to be in effect. There are no pending challenges to or litigation against the project or the permits.

AES New Creek anticipates no changes to the project’s design, components, or construction processes that would require the granting of, or a waiver from the obligation to obtain, a material modification or amendment to the siting certificate.

AES New Creek wants quick approval of three-year extension

To provide the potential buyer a reasonable opportunity to complete the acquisition, arrange financing, procure construction and other contracts, and complete other preparatory efforts, AES New Creek asks the commission to extend the certificate by three years. Under this extension, AES New Creek would be required to commence a continuous course of construction within eight years of the date the final certificate was granted unless it petitions the commission for approval to expand this time frame.

To facilitate the acquisition, and given the uncontroversial nature of this filing, AES New Creek asks the commission to give this filing expedited consideration and to issue an order granting the requested relief not later than Sept. 19.

AES New Creek has planned construct up to 66 wind turbines on a seven-mile stretch of the New Creek Mountain ridge line from a point about one mile north of Greenland Gap near Greenland in Grant County and proceeding in a northern direction to the county line with Mineral County. The project, with an estimated cost of $308m at the time of the 2009 commission approval, would be capable of generating 99 MW-160 MW and would interconnect with an existing 500-kV Allegheny Power line near the south end of the project area.

Noted the September 2009 commission approval about turbine selection: “In order to assess the full range of potential Project impacts, AES New Creek provided an analysis of Project impacts assuming the use of either a 1.5 MW GE turbine (the smallest turbine in terms of physical size, with the most potential turbines) and the 2.5 MW Clipper turbine (the largest turbine in terms of physical size, with the fewest potential turbines). The Application provided the Commission with an analysis of both turbine configurations (sixty-six 1.5 MW GE turbines; 53 2.5 MW Clipper turbines) so that the Commission and the public could see the maximum potential impact for the ultimate Project configuration selected. AES New Creek later supplemented the Application by providing information relating to a 2.5 MW GE turbine, which is 5.5 meters taller than the 2.5 MW Clipper turbine. AES New Creek’s analysis of the 2.5 MW GE turbine, when compared to the 1.5 MW GE turbine and the 2.5 MW Clipper turbine, shows that the potential use of a 2.5 MW GE turbine will have no material effect on the Project’s various impacts described in the Application and supporting direct testimony.”

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.