Sunday, February 19
FLORIDA — An Oregon-based company has purchased the proposed Hoosac Wind project, an effort to put 20 wind-power turbines atop hills in Florida and Monroe that has been in the planning stages for years but held up by appeals.

PPM Energy spokeswoman Jan Johnson would not say what price the company paid for the project, but confirmed that the deal was completed last week with California-based enXco, which first proposed the project in 2001 and had guided it up to now.

'Not surprising' say opponents

Opponents of the Hoosac project, who are raising objections to their environmental permits in an appeals proceeding in Boston, say the sale was not unexpected.

"It's not at all surprising," said Eleanor Tillinghast of the group Green Berkshires, which is part of the opposition. "It is a reminder these companies are not interested in doing good, but in making huge amounts of money off taxpayers."

The $40 million project to install 20 wind turbines on ridges in Florida and Monroe would generate about 30 megawatts of power. Originally planned to be up and running in 2004, the project has been delayed frequently by concerns about impacts on the hills. PPM Energy said it hopes to have the project running in 2007.

Johnson said the company controls about 1,600 megawatts of current or in development wind power. Its goal is to reach 2,300 megawatts by 2010.


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Most projects in the West

Most of its projects are in the West. The nearest operating wind project it is involved with is the Maple Ridge project, which is 75 miles northeast of Syracuse, N.Y.

"We entered the Northeast in January 2005, and the Hoosac Wind project is a promising one that fits with our overall strategy of wind power development," Johnson said.

She said the company's interest in the Northeast is both because of the size of the market and the regulatory commitment to adding wind to the energy mix. She noted that several states — including Massachusetts — have "robust public policies" such as renewal portfolio standards that require utilities to purchase a portion of their electricity from renewable generation sources.

Hoosac Wind is currently subject to an appeals process of its environmental permit issued in November 2004. In particular, opponents are concerned about the impact of access roads to the sites on Bakke Mountain in Florida and Crum Hill in Monroe.

The case is being heard by the Division of Administrative Law Appeals. More rounds of briefs and oral arguments are planned this spring, after which a magistrate will issue a written opinion.

Tillinghast said news of the sale confirms that the companies have profit rather than community interest at heart, and that towns where these projects are considered should beware.

"They should be very concerned about being pawns," she said. "I think the communities should be very wary about getting pulled into these deals between these huge corporations."

PPM Energy is the unregulated North American markets division of Scottish Power, which is based in Glasgow, Scotland. It specializes mainly in wind power and natural gas storage facilities.

But PPM Energy's future is in some doubt. Scottish Power, which is Britain's fifth-largest energy supplier, is in the process of selling most of its American assets to MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., a subsidiary of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway. That deal is valued at $9.4 billion and is awaiting regulatory approval.

However, PPM Energy is not part of that deal. Scottish Power CEO Philip Bowman told The Independent newspaper in the United Kingdom that PPM Energy's future is still up in the air.

"When I go out to look at the U.S. business (in March), that is clearly something that will be on my mind," he said. "It is a well-managed business but a bit of an orphan."