Construction of a 99-MW wind farm in Coos County, N.H., is likely to be sped along by a $136.8-million conditional loan guarantee awarded in June by the Dept. of Energy.
The project recently faced another potential problem besides funding. A major supplier, locally based Isaacson Steel, Berlin, N.H., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on June 22. However, wind-farm developer Brookfield Renewable Power, Toronto, and contractor RMT Energy, Madison, Wis., say the bankruptcy will not have an impact on the construction schedule. The wind farm should be generating power by year's end.
Isaacson Steel senior project manager David Bertrand blames the economy for his company's setback. He says the filing will not affect Isaacson's ability to furnish the 31 tons of steel needed to support switchgear at the site. Vestas is supplying the 3-MW turbines as well as the steel turbine towers.
Mark Osten, director of business development for RMT Energy, praised Isaacson's performance on the project. “Isaacson has done an outstanding job for the project to date, and we would expect that to continue,” Osten says. “We do understand that Isaacson plans to continue operations under Chapter 11,” so no changes are needed on the project.
However, if Isaacson becomes unable to perform, RMT has alternative sources for steel. “Our schedule will not be impacted if we would need to use another steel vendor. Our preference is to always use as much local content as possible, and we are doing that,” says Osten.
Green Mountain Power and Central Vermont Public Service have contracted to buy the power from the wind farm, which is called Granite Reliable. The contractors are busy constructing access roads throughout the steep, rugged 14.5-mile building site, and tower placement is scheduled to begin on Aug. 15. The wind turbines will be perched along north-south ridges at elevations about 3,000 ft above sea level.
DOE and Essex, Conn.-based Noble Environmental Power, the wind farm's previous owners, were required to identify, assess and estimate the impact of risks associated with the project prior to receiving the conditional loan guarantee commitment, but Isaacson's bankruptcy apparently wasn't a factor. In New Hampshire's North Country, weather, steep terrain and a shaky economy are more treacherous obstacles to any construction project.
The economic benefits of the project were touted by the DOE when it issued the guarantee.
On June 21, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said, “This administration is creating clean-energy jobs … which will help the U.S. to recapture the lead when it comes to the deployment of renewable energy.” His office claimed the project would generate enough electricity to power nearly 20,000 homes as well as create about 200 jobs.