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EverPower Holdings’ 139.4 MW Twin Ridges wind farm, located in Somerset County, was the developer’s fourth project in Pennsylvania and the company’s most challenging project to date. More than anything, the Twin Ridges wind farm stands as a testament to how far a developer will go when it believes in a project. How far? Consider that the project took six years, $240 million and a legislative tweak before it was completed in the fourth quarter of last year.

Early development plans called for 68 MM92 wind turbines from REpower Systems with a rated capacity of 2.05 MW to span 22 miles of the Big Savage and Little Savage Mountains running between southern Pennsylvania and Maryland; hence the project’s name. The wind farm was built on 290 acres of private farm and forest property through the communities of Southampton, Larimer, Greenville and Northampton, which were generally supportive of the wind project. According to EverPower, the REpower turbines were selected based not only on price, availability and service, but also on their ability to operate in medium- to low-wind speeds.

EverPower also worked to protect avian species, such as the eastern small-footed bat. Working with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, EverPower created 10 habitat structures near the project site. The developer says the homes were the first ever to be created in southern Pennsylvania for eastern small-footed bats.

As is customary with many Pennsylvania wind projects, the output from the wind farm is being sold onto the wholesale power market within the PJM Interconnection territory. (For more on the Pennsylvania wind market, see “An Overnight Success A Decade In The Making”.)

The Twin Ridges wind farm trails only BP Wind Energy’s 144 MW Mehoopany wind farm as the largest in the state, says Harry R. Benson, senior director of development and one of Twin Ridges’ early champions. Benson notes that if output is used as the determining factor, Twin Ridges tops BP’s wind farm based on stronger ridgeline winds.

The wind farm generates several economic and environmental benefits. According to EverPower, about 200 workers were hired during peak construction, many of whom were from the local labor pool. Twin Ridges requires 12 employees to operate and maintain the project and will generate approximately $14 million in payments to local taxing authorities over its lifetime.

The wind farm has a 10-mile, 138 kV generator lead line that carries all of the projects’ electricity to its interconnection point in Maryland. The power feeds into the First Energy Potomac Edison substation, which feeds power to western Maryland, southwestern Pennsylvania and the entire PJM system.

 

Challenges

Benson recalls that the challenges presented by the wind farm did not really materialize until it was discovered that the developer’s desired point of interconnection – on the Pennsylvania side of the Allegheny Ridge – was at capacity and performing the necessary upgrades to accommodate the wind farm would have been far too costly.

Soon, the developer identified an alternate location. However, that site was located 10 miles away in Frostburg, Md., recalls Mike Speerschneider, EverPower’s senior director for government affairs and permitting.

EverPower needed an additional 15 easements with landowners to allow the final 1.7 miles of generator lead line to travel beneath the Frostburg city streets, but that issue paled in comparison to the regulatory red tape the developer now faced because the Maryland-based location forced EverPower to satisfy both Pennsylvania and Maryland regulations.

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“Not only did we have lead line to a substation located in another state, but we were also interconnecting in a different state than where we had the wind turbines,” Speerschneider explains.

The developer needed to obtain a Certification of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) before Maryland’s Public Service Commission (PSC) would permit the project.

The problem centered on the generator lead line connecting to the substation, a distance of fewer than six miles. However, there was no language in Maryland’s statute pertaining to generator lead lines located in another state.

EverPower was not a transmission service and – because its wind turbines were located in Pennsylvania – did not technically generate power in Maryland. Therefore, EverPower worked to amend the statute’s definition.

“Before the legislation, EverPower could not apply as a generating station for a CPCN because the Maryland PSC ruled that our lead line was not a component of a Maryland generating station,” Speerschneider explains. “Therefore, we would have to apply as a transmission line. However, only electric companies could receive a CPCN to construct a transmission line according to Maryland law.”

“The legislative change addresses the statutory crack we fell into,” adds Speerschneider.

The amendment was signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley on April 12, 2011.

“Coordinating the administrative effort was a big undertaking,” recalls Speerschneider. “There were two different sets of rules and regulations, and having it all come together at the same time was challenging.” w

Project Profile: Twin Ridges

What Happens When A Project Crosses State Lines

By Mark Del Franco

EverPower’s 139.4 MW Twin Ridges wind farm, completed in the fourth quarter of last year, stands as a lesson in patience and persistence.

 

 

 

 

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