Residents of Prospect concerned about a proposal to build wind power turbines in their small Connecticut town have gotten a close-up look at a wind project in neighboring Massachusetts to see what they might be up against.
Mayor Robert Chatfield hired a bus and took nearly three dozen residents to Cape Cod on a recent weekend to look at a wind turbine on Falmouth property and to talk to neighbors.
“When I first heard of it, I thought it was the best thing since sliced bread,” the mayor said. “Now I’ve kind of backed off a little bit.”
Chatfield said most of those who took the bus trip were opposed to the proposal. He said the project has been the most contentious issue in town since the late 1990s when plans to build a regional high school drew opposition.
BNE Energy Inc. of West Hartford wants to build two 1.6-megawatt wind turbines. The company did not immediately return a call Monday.
On its application to the Connecticut Siting Council, BNE Energy said its “Wind Prospect” project will not result in air emissions, will have minimal impacts on state water quality standards and will advance Connecticut’s energy policy by developing renewable energy resources.
Chatfield said the project would bring the town $150,000 a year in taxes, a small contribution to Prospect’s budget of $7 million and millions more in school spending.
Jerry Potamis, wastewater superintendent at Falmouth, greeted the Prospect visitors on his day off.
He said one turbine has been operating since March at the town’s wastewater plant and another is planned. The turbine so far has generated revenue of $164,000 and is expected to bring in additional $99,000 in less than a year, he said.
“It’s definitely a cash cow,” Potamis said.
During the planning stages, no one opposed the project, he said. But that has changed because of noise produced by the turbine.
“There’s a growing number of people that don’t like it visually or say they don’t like the whooshing noise,” Potamis said.
Prospect neighbors of the proposed project cite, among other complaints, noise and flickering sunlight produced by the turbines.
Resident Tim Reilly, who visited Falmouth, said the proposed turbines would be 1,800 feet from his house. Speaking to Falmouth residents unhappy with the wind turbine gave him new insight, he said.
“It was eye-opening to hear the personal accounts,” he said.
Reilly, a high school marketing teacher, and other residents say the project is potentially dangerous to public safety, health, quality of life, wildlife and real estate values.
“These things should not be in anyone’s back yards,” he said. “These things should be on a mountain range, on a bay somewhere.”
Other pressures working against the project include Connecticut’s energy goals. The state set goals 10 years ago to increase renewable energy in its portfolio of power sources, but an annual plan submitted to state regulators earlier this year sought significant increases in megawatts generated by sources other than wind – landfill gas, hydro power, biomass, fuel cells and solar energy.
In addition, Falmouth may have better prospects generating wind power than Connecticut. The Cape has a superior location near the Atlantic Ocean, while Connecticut does not have access to the stiff winds generated by the ocean and has no mountains to produce so-called wind corridors.
Linda Roberts, executive director of the Connecticut Siting Council, said the agency has 60 days from the Nov. 17 filing of the proposal to take action on it.
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