First Wind, an independent U.S.-based wind energy company, marked the commencement of commercial operations of the company’s 40 megawatt (MW) Sheffield Wind project in Vermont. Governor Peter Shumlin, local officials and members of the community joined company representatives for a ribbon-cutting event to recognize the environmental and economic benefits of the project, which will deliver clean, renewable power to about 15,000 Vermont homes.
“The Sheffield Wind project is an exciting development for our state as it is producing significant clean energy in Vermont for Vermonters today,” said Governor Shumlin. “It is critical for Vermont to diversify its supply of energy to develop more sustainable sources of power, and projects such as this represent a path for a more sustainable and secure energy future.”
Located in the Town of Sheffield in the Northeast Kingdom, the Sheffield Wind project is comprised of 16 Clipper Liberty 2.5 MW turbines, and will generate enough power for about 45 percent of the homes in the Northeast Kingdom. The Sheffield Wind project will diversify the portfolio of electricity generation in Vermont, and it will be integrated into the grid in a manner that increases reliability and helps reduce costs for consumers .State Representative Tony Klein, Chair of the House Natural Resources & Energy Committee and the Chair of the Joint House & Senate Energy Oversight Committee, spoke about the significance of the project during the ribbon-cutting event.
“This project represents a huge step forward towards Vermont’s sustainable clean energy future,” said Representative Klein. “It is very gratifying to see our energy policy, ten years in the making, finally become a reality.”
Beyond producing clean energy, the Sheffield Wind project has also undertaken several cutting-edge environmental mitigation and conservation measures that surpass even the most stringent industry standards. One of these measures is an intricate system of ditches which convey runoff to 27 basins designed to catch and filter storm water. In addition, the project also features narrower roads and smaller turbine pads than most utility-scale wind projects, measures to protect wildlife—including bear and moose habitat—and the preservation of the site for recreational uses.
“We are pleased to celebrate the completion of this project and we are excited that it can now deliver clean, renewable energy to Vermont consumers,” said Paul Gaynor, CEO of First Wind. “First Wind has worked hard over many years to develop and build the Sheffield project the right way, and today’s commercial operations have been a long time coming. In designing and building this project, First Wind was highly attentive to protecting the natural resources here at the site. We believe this project is one of the most innovative in the country in taking steps to reduce overall impacts to the natural resources.”
“We’d like to thank our numerous project partners, including our utility power buyers, along with all of our supporters within the local community and throughout Vermont for helping us move this beneficial project forward,” added Gaynor.
The renewable power generated by the project has been sold to three Vermont utilities including the Burlington Electric Department (BED), the Vermont Electric Cooperative, Inc. (VEC) and the Washington Electric Cooperative, Inc. (WEC). VEC and WEC both provide power to several towns in the Northeast Kingdom, so much of the power produced in Sheffield will stay within the area.
“We have supported this project from its earliest stages, and we are thrilled to add the production from Sheffield Wind to our power portfolio,” said Avram Patt, General Manager of Washington Electric Cooperative. “The clean energy produced from this wind project also provides long-term cost certainty, a valuable hedge to more volatile fuels, which is a direct benefit to our residential and business members throughout Central Vermont and the Northeast Kingdom.”
Now that the project has achieved commercial operations, the Town of Sheffield will begin to receive more than $520,000 annually in tax revenues, which can be used toward local services including roads, schools, police, firefighters and more. In total, including payments and services for land, property and state taxes, and local maintenance contracts, about $1 million a year will be paid into Vermont for the life of the project.
“Throughout the development and construction process, First Wind has been very cooperative and worked hard to be sure that Sheffield and the surrounding areas benefited in the process,” said Max Aldrich, chairman of the Sheffield Select Board. “This project will prove to be both a valuable renewable energy source and economic contributor to the area.”
During construction, Sheffield Wind created about 200 jobs, and several local businesses saw an increase in business and revenue during the building of the project. Additionally, the general contractor on the project, RMT, Inc., hired Vermont-based businesses and subcontractors including J.A. McDonald, Inc. of Lyndon Center; J.P Sicard, Inc. Excavating of Barton; Carroll Concrete of St. Johnsbury; and Deter Security of Rutland to work on the project .Development and construction of the project required about 185,000 direct and on-site labor hours, or about 100 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs over a full-year. First Wind and its contractors used about 50 different Vermont businesses for site work, supplies and equipment, environmental services, fuel and maintenance and lodging.
“It was exciting to be part of the state’s largest wind project,” said a representative of J.A. McDonald, Inc. “The Sheffield Wind project has provided us with steady work and has been very good for our business during an otherwise difficult economy.”