Cape Wind accepted by New England power grid

Reliability Committee of 270-member ISO New England votes unanimously in favor of accepting electricity from offshore wind farm

By Jack Coleman

Once again, the Cape Wind project has received approval for a critical aspect of its proposal to build the nation's first offshore wind farm in the waters off Cape Cod.


Cape Wind's
critics have long contended that wind is too unreliable for use in the New England Power Pool

ISO New England, the nonprofit corporation that coordinates the region's supply of electricity, has approved Cape Wind's plan for power generated from its 130 turbines to be integrated into the regional grid.

Cape Wind's critics have long contended that wind is too unreliable for use in the New England Power Pool, making it less desirable and more problematic than conventional sources of electricity.

Members of ISO New England, representing 270 utilities across New England, unanimously approved Cape Wind's plan during an Oct. 4 meeting in Springfield.

The plan as submitted by Energy Management Inc., Cape Wind Associates' managing partner, "will not have a significant adverse effect on the stability, reliability or operating characteristics of NStar Electric and Gas Corporation's transmission facilities, the transmission facilities of another Transmission Owner, or the system of a Market Participant," wrote Stephen G. Whitley, senior vice president and chief operating officer of ISO New England in an Oct. 6 letter to Leonard Fagan, vice president of engineering at Energy Management.


The plan "will not have a significant adverse effect on the stability, reliability or operating characteristics of NStar Electric and Gas Corporation's transmission facilities"

While Cape Wind's efforts to receive approval from 17 federal, state and regional entities have received considerable scrutiny in the media, little attention has been given to ISO New England, whose acceptance of Cape Wind's application is critical to the wind farm's chances of success.

Cape Wind CEO Jim Gordon said the favorable vote came "after more than three years of rigorous analysis and study" by ISO New England's 30-member Reliability Committee.

"This represents another major milestone in Cape Wind's efforts to deliver clean and affordable renewable energy to citizens of Massachusetts," Gordon said.

Project previously approved for regional grid on Cape Cod

Back in May, Cape Wind's plan to connect its offshore turbines to the regional grid on Cape Cod was approved by the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board, another permitting hurdle that could have delayed or derailed the project.

The Reliability Committee voted unanimously in favor of Cape Wind's application, with one abstention, according to ISO New England spokesman Ken McDonnell.

"We very much support diversity in the sources of electricity, as well as diversity in the sources of fuel for electricity," McDonnell said. He declined to reveal the identify of the sole holdout, based on ISO New England rules against disclosure of how its members vote.

The non-profit corporation that runs the regional grid is comprised of 270 utilities, transmission and marketing companies, and municipal generators such as Taunton Municipal Lighting Plant that make up the New England Power Pool.

Members include also Cape Light Compact, a municipal aggregator for the 21 towns on the Cape and Martha's Vineyard; Canal Electric Company; and Boston Edison Company.

The Reliability Committee initially voted in favor of Cape Wind's application back on July 29 "by a vote of 100 percent," according to Whitley's letter to Fagan.

Approval comes with conditions, all technical in nature

ISO New England's approval came with 17 conditions, all technical in nature. For example, the first condition stipulates "The! Project having a maximum combined net capability of 462 MW (megawatts) at its point of interconnection at the Barnstable 115 kV (kilovolt) Substation under all seasonal temperature conditions."

Condition Two states that "Expansion of the Barnstable 115 kV Substation to include a fifth bay with two circuit breakers and the addition of a third circuit breaker in the planned fourth bay," and so forth.

Whitley's letter also said the ISO had given "additional consideration" to Condition 15, "based on the recognition than Canal 345 kV SPS (Special Protection Systems) does not meet the SPS guidelines specified" in ISO New England planning procedures.

But "contrary to this guideline, the tripping of Cape Wind by the Canal 345 kV SPS is a remote action," Whitley wrote. The "proposed exemption will not have a significant adverse impact on Participant systems."

On Oct. 4, members of the Reliability Committee reviewed a report submitted by Energy Management Inc. and "concurred with EMI's conclusion that the equipment, the equipment specifications, and the operating restrictions identified, which are to be added to the Project scope to be approved, would mitigate the switching surges effect identified in the subject study," Whitley wrote.

In Whitley's Oct. 6 letter to Fagan, he cited a timeframe for the Cape Wind project that Fagan outlined in a July 15 letter to the chairman of the Reliability Committee: - half of the project's turbines - 65 - and an electric service platform would be operational as of June 2007, if the project receives the necessary further permits. The remaining 65 turbines would be generating electricity by November 2008.
 

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