Georgia Mountain wind sold
An investment firm specializing in renewable energy assets has purchased Georgia Mountain Community Wind, which built four large wind turbines on a Milton hillside.
David Blittersdorf, one of two former owners of Georgia Mountain Community Wind, said he sold the company for $25.1 million.
Greenbacker Renewable Energy Company LLC closed on the purchase of the turbines Dec. 21.
All of the electricity from the project is sold to Burlington Electric Department. The project has been supplying 10 megawatts a year to the department since Dec. 31, 2012. The sales to BED will continue as before, under an existing 25-year power purchase agreement.
Greenbacker owns $240 million worth of wind and solar generators around the country. The firm operates the turbines for investors, according to David Sher, director of Greenbacker.
About a third of the firm's assets are in wind energy, and the other two-thirds are in solar, according to Greenbacker's most recent filing with federal regulators. The company owns wind assets that produce 55.5 megawatts of power and solar assets that generate 123.4 megawatts.
The firm owns nine solar arrays in Vermont already, and Greenbacker CEO Charles Wheeler said the Georgia Mountain turbines would complement the company's existing assets in the state.
Sher said the Georgia Mountain facility is just the type of project his investors are looking for.
"We're always looking for assets of this type," Sher said.
The Georgia Mountain turbines have generated considerable controversy.
The Public Utility Commission just last month fined Georgia Mountain Community Wind nearly $10,000 for operating the windmills during conditions in the winter of 2016 that could have formed ice on the turbines' blades. State regulators said the fine was justified because if ice had formed on the blades, it could have posed a threat to someone walking in the wooded hillside below.
The turbines have drawn ire from neighboring residents. Over the first three years of operation, the state has received 100 formal complaints from people living in four homes in the area, one of which sits more than two miles from the turbines.
The opposition — mirrored on the state level by activists who claim the turbines cause heart disease, cancer, poisoned wells, broken home foundations and other ills — has created what Blittersdorf called an "exponentially" expanding bureaucratic roadblock to renewable-energy development in Vermont.
Blittersdorf, an engineer from UVM who spent his youth designing and erecting wind turbines, said he'd like to reinvest the proceeds from Georgia Mountain in other Vermont renewable-energy projects, but said it's unclear whether the state's political climate will allow that.
He is currently seeking to permit a single wind turbine on a farm in the Northeast Kingdom.
Called Dairy Air Wind, the project consists of one 2.2-megawatt wind turbine that Blittersdorf, along with Brian and Kim Champney, are attempting to build on the Champneys' 450-acre farm.
It's unclear whether the state will allow the Champneys to erect that sole turbine on their property.
"I want to keep doing this stuff in Vermont," Blittersdorf said. "But Dairy Air Wind — it's a single turbine in a cornfield, and I don't know if we're going to get a permit, because of opposition from the highest levels of state government on down."
Blittersdorf said he's got other projects in the works. "I'm not giving up," he said. "We're going to keep moving."
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