CANAAN—In 1963, Bob Dylan looked at the Civil Rights movement and assured us that the “answer is blowin’ in the wind.” Forty-seven years later, legal equality in the United States has been achieved—although ethical equality is still a goal—and the nation has turned to other pressing needs.
As the demand for energy increases, fossil fuel becomes more problematic and global warming threatens the entire Earth, one answer again is literally blowing in the wind.
Wind generation has become an increasingly prominent choice for renewable energy generation, and the latest proposal in the Northwest Corner came before the Canaan Planning and Zoning Commission Tuesday night. BNE Energy, based in West Hartford, made its second appearance before the commission, this time offering proposed zoning regulations governing construction of commercial wind towers. The regulations were originally developed for Guilford.
The site BNE is proposing is behind Lone Oaks campground in East Canaan. Representatives of the company told Planning and Zoning Tuesday that the Lone Oaks tower would be 275 feet high with blades 180 feet in diameter. It would be situated on the crest of the ridge 1,350 feet above sea level.
BNE already has a second site under contract in Canaan at Freund’s Farm, and told the Planning and Zoning Commission that others could be constructed in the town. No application has been proffered yet for the second site, but BNE has been busy in other Connecticut towns and its owners hope eventually to have wind farms throughout New England.
Earlier this month, Gregory J. Zupkis of Prospect, a former aeronautical engineer and telephone executive who is now president and CEO of BNE, and Paul Corey of West Hartford, former executive director of the Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control, an energy law attorney and BNE’s chairman, appeared in Prospect to answer questions about two wind turbines proposed there. They expected to file a proposal with the Connecticut Siting Council for six wind turbines on land off Flag Hill Road in Colebrook.
The men have been collecting wind velocity data in Colebrook for almost two years, having erected a temporary, meteorological tower there in early 2009.
Their interest in Northwest Connecticut is natural. The Department of Energy’s Wind Program and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory published a wind resource map for Connecticut that shows the highest wind resources in Connecticut are found on ridge crests in the Northwest Corner.
BNE was organized in 2006 and its Web page says it is “diligently” working to identify potential sites. Its first three projects are expected to generate 50 to 60 megawatts of electricity, and the company estimates that it will soon have the capacity for more than 100 megawatts (MW) of wind generation. Completion of the first projects is expected in 2011, with another 100 megawatts capacity being added by 2014. Continued growth in the Northeast and across the country is foreseen, with more than 1,000 MW of installed wind generation capacity by 2018.
But first there are hurdles to be crossed. The Canaan Planning and Zoning Commission has yet to accept BNE’s application for the Lone Oaks site because it does not have regulations in place governing the placement of wind generation towers. Under state law, local municipalities are given some say in the placement of towers, although ultimate authority lies with the Connecticut Siting Council. The council, aware of the pending BNE application, is developing its own regulations for electrical generation facilities.
The response to BNE’s proposal at Tuesday’s land-use meeting ranged from noncommital to cautiously enthusiastic. Chairman Steve Allyn said construction of the tower could be a “groundbreaking event” for Canaan, saying he had the opportunity to see a similar tower at Jiminy Peak in Massachusetts and “was totally impressed.”
“This is a win-win situation for everyone,” he proclaimed.
Others worried about the visibility of the tower and its potential marring of the landscape, while still other commission members remained mum throughout Tuesday’s meeting.
Land-use panel alternate Tim Abbot asked how the community would be able to understand what the tower would look like perched atop the ridgeline of Canaan Mountain. Mr. Corey said a computer simulation would depict what the tower would look like from different vantage points.”
“The tower would not be visible from as many areas as you think,” he said. “In some places, you would have a good view of it, then you go around the corner and it would be gone.”
Because of its position atop the ridge and because of its height, the tower would have a red light on it to warn aircraft. Mr. Corey said red is the color preferred by the Federal Aviation Administration. Because the turbine would be painted white, no lighting would be required during the day.
Mr. Abbot asked if chemicals would be used to prevent icing on the tower. He was told that the tower is remotely monitored and would be shut down if a large ice storm came through because ice impedes the tower’s ability to operate.
Mr. Abbott asked whether meteorological towers would be used in Canaan to gather data on wind velocity. Mr. Corey said, “Typically we need ‘met’ tower data for a new project, which may be supplemented with sodar data. But sodar is relatively new [sodar systems emit an acoustic pulse and listen for the return signal, calculating wind speed, wind direction and turbulance] and most banks still want met tower data.”
He said it is unlikely a second tower would be needed if another turbine were to be erected fairly close to the first. “These are temporary towers, generally 200 feet high, that collect one or two years of data and then are taken down,” he said.
Tom Zetterstrom, a local photographer and environmentalist, urged the company to look at other sites, specifically on Rattlesnake Hill because he feared the negative impact on Canaan Mountain, “the largest undeveloped tract in Canaan, if not in Connecticut.”
He said the aesthetics of Rattlesnake Hill have already been compromised by two microwave towers and “has a much diminished prominence in the landscape.”
Mr. Allyn admitted that he, too, has been thinking about Rattlesnake Hill as a site, saying, “I have been thinking about something like this on our property. You have to think how to best utilize your land to present income. The hard part about zoning is that you have to regulate for what is best for the town, to protect the town and our assets and not to stimulate disorderly growth. ”
Ms. LaBella urged a look at “alternative technologies” that don’t require the height of the towers proposed by BNE. Mr. Corey said the type of generation used by Optiwind, a thicker, more compact tower with multiple small blades, generates only a fraction of the electricity.
The Guilford zoning regulations offered as a guideline for the Canaan commission “were not proposed as residential regulations,” Mr. Corey conceded. “We tried to build in a reasonable amount of data to submit and to have the commission in town have the ultimate decision. We leave it to you whether this project or future projects make sense to the town.”