A recently approved House bill, which is on its way to the Senate, may not set the blades spinning on a proposed 30-megawatt wind project in Monroe and Florida, but it could make similar renewable projects easier in the future.
The legislation, co-sponsored by state Rep. Daniel Bosley, D-North Adams, would increase the state’s reliance on cleaner, renewable energy and would create a Department of Clean Energy charged with replacing 20 percent of the state’s electric load with generation from renewable energy and creating a division specifically charged with promoting wind, solar and bio-fuels projects.
Meanwhile, the 20-turbine Hoosac Wind project, first proposed five years ago for Monroe’s Crum Hill and neighboring Bakki Mountain in Florida, is still stalled in a superior court appeal by project opponents.
The proposed legislation, which the Senate is scheduled to take up next month, includes a compromise amendment by state Rep. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington, to a section that would have automatically allowed small renewable projects on industrially zoned parcels. The provision, intended to deflect ”not in my backyard” opposition, Kulik said, gives such projects a go-ahead, but requires local approval over issues like tower height and other special conditions.
”We’re not going to increase our use of renewables if we don’t start putting these up,” said Kulik. ”The bill was concerned with the ‘NIMBY’ (not in my backyard) attitude that exists, and which has been a problem with the Monroe-Florida project.”
That project, proposed by Oregon-based PPM Energy, has been subject to lengthy appeal by the state Department of Environmental Protection over complaints about the potential environmental impact of the construction of an access road. Opponents filed a court appeal this summer after the DEP appeal process ruled in June that the project –originally proposed by enXco – could proceed.
Kulik said that such projects could be helped by having ”an advocate in state government” as part of the new legislation. ”We can’t keep complaining about high electric rates and service disruptions unless we take matters in our own hands.”
PPM spokeswoman Jan Johnson said company is ”still moving ahead” with plans for nine turbines in Monroe and 11 in Florida, which she said would be capable of generating 94,600 megawatt hours of electricity a year, enough to provide power to 13,000 average-size homes.
Bosley said, ”In concept, everyone likes clean energy, but when you go to put it in your backyard, everyone’s against it. The bill encourages communities to do some zoning to take care of these problems before these projects ever come to town.”
The projects in communities that are designated as favoring renewable technologies can be pre-permitted ”so that we don’t end up spending all of this time should somebody decide to come here,” he said, and assures long-term funding to make financing them easier.
Lynn DiTullio, program manager at the Renewable Energy Resarch Laboratory at the University of Massachusetts, said that while the proposed legislation may not stop ”things going around in circles for years on end, so that proponents wonder why even bother?” Kulik’s amendment could provide a way to streamline the process ”without violating all of our towns’ dearly and closely held rights.”
The proposed legislation also includes several incentives for proponents of renewable generating projects – particularly solar and wind – by loosening metering regulations.
One would allow ”neighborhood net metering,” DiTullio said, so that communities with an attractive wind-power site could share the benefits of a project.
”This bill addresses in key ways some of the challenges,” she said, noting that some definitions in the legislation need clarifying. ”Making the economics work has been a huge, huge challenge.”
By Richie Davis
26 November 2007
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