COLEBROOK—Plans for a pair of wind turbine sites in this tiny town that would represent Connecticut’s first step toward commercial wind power are set to be heard before the Connecticut Siting Council at its next meeting on Jan. 20.
Former telephone company executive Gregory Zupkus, with his business partner, Paul Corey, of BNE Energy, Inc., has been collecting data on the two sites on Flagg Hill Road and Rock Hall Road—as well as a third site in the New Haven County town of Prospect—for the past two years, using test poles to gauge wind speed. BNE is now prepared to submit plans for its three sites to the Connecticut Siting Council, a governor-appointed agency that oversees the placement of all power facilities and telecommunication equipment in the state.
Mr. Zupkus, who founded BNE Energy in 2006, said that he is confident the hearing process would end in an approval.
“We have worked very hard over the last three years to cover all issues that we feel would be important to the CSC, so we feel favorable that these are excellent projects not only for the towns but for the residents, and we think the residents will feel this way as well during the six-month [review] process,” he said.
“It’s not just clean energy—we’ll be producing about four times the amount of electricity the town uses, which will generate almost $500,000 a year in tax revenue but won’t be using any of its resources,” said Mr. Zupkus. “It also will be locking up the land from future real estate development, protecting it from suburban sprawl.”
Colebrook First Selectman Thomas McKeon has voiced support for the project, but not everyone in the tiny and remote community has been happy with the idea of the towers, which measure nearly 500 feet tall, coming to town.
Robin Hirtle, a neighbor to the Flagg Hill Road site, filed a lawsuit concerning the use of a road leading to the so-called Colebrook South Site.
The suit is still pending in the state court system, with a hearing set for yesterday, Jan. 13. Ms. Hirtle also applied for, and was granted, status as an intervenor before the siting council, giving her a part in the review and approval process.
Stella and Michael Somers, owners of Rock Hall Luxe Lodging, a bed-and-breakfast in a historic mansion located near to the Rock Hall Road site, have also been granted intervenor status and complained that BNE did not take the business’ operations and its status on the National Register of Historic Places into account.
The Somers have voiced fears that the noise and sight of the turbines would affect their home’s attractiveness to potential guests. The Somers could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Mr. Zupkus, however, said that the Somers have little to worry about—and that, in fact, the turbines could bring extra tourism to the area, noting that at the Jiminy Peak ski resort in Hancock, Mass., has seen an increase in traffic since it added similar (albeit smaller) wind turbines.
“They polled their skiers, and people come there because they’re excited about the energy coming from the wind turbine, and the green-powered hotel they have there,” he said. “Ski resorts across the country are similar—Aspen buys their energy from wind projects, because they’ve found people just like that. We believe Rock Hall has the opportunity to promote that their power comes from wind.”
FairWindCT, a Colebrook citizens group that opposes the towers, has asked for a moratorium to be placed on any decision involving commercial wind turbines until clearer regulations on their placement are established by the state legislature—a sentiment echoed by former attorney general and now U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, who in one of his last acts before leaving office called on the legislature to create clear standards that would keep their presence from damaging pristine forests or affecting quality of life for residents.
Mr. Zupkus, however, disagrees, saying that the siting council’s complex process of approval precludes the need for broad regulations.
“A moratorium sends the wrong message for the state and to business on all fronts,” he said. “We don’t believe it’s a good idea. The CSC today already regulates nuclear power, gas-fired plants, oil, coal and cell towers, so the comment of no regulations is not accurate.”
BNE is also in talks with two prominent businesses in East Canaan—the Freund Farm Market and Lone Oak Campsites—to place a smaller turbine that would meet both businesses’ needs.
Since the East Canaan project would not be a commercial turbine, the Connecticut Siting Council will not be involved, but it would still be subject to approval by the town government.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding