Proposals for Connecticut’s first wind power projects are facing a hurdle in the capital as legislators seek to delay any construction until the state develops more detailed turbine standards.
A lawmaker whose district would host a project planned for Prospect said her committee’s proposed legislation aims to give planners time to draft new rules.
Rep. Vickie Nardello, the House chairwoman of the legislature’s Energy and Technology Committee, said she doesn’t necessarily oppose the project in Prospect, but worries the turbines would be too close to homes.
“If we’re going to do wind, we’re going to do it well,” Nardello said.
BNE Energy Inc. of West Hartford is proposing wind projects that include two turbines in Prospect and six in Colebrook. Its chairman, Paul Corey, said a moratorium doesn’t make sense when demand is rising for alternatives to oil.
“How much can you keep drilling and using fossil fuels?” he said. “We don’t need additional roadblocks and moratoriums.”
The proposals for the two projects have been awaiting approval from the Connecticut Siting Council since late last year. The agency is responsible for ruling on sites for power facilities, transmission lines and hazardous waste facilities.
The Prospect project would be located near watershed land and a mix of commercial, industrial and residential properties, the company said in its filing.
In Colebrook, one site is adjacent to undeveloped land and residential properties. The other site is largely undeveloped, with a small portion home to a golf driving range.
Some opponents in Prospect say the project is a threat to public safety, wildlife and real estate values. They say the wind turbines are noisy and cause what is called a “shadow flicker” with the spinning blades.
Tim Reilly, a Prospect resident who opposes the wind project, said a local group reached out to Nardello and other elected officials in December seeking strict regulations on wind power.
“That’s how the bill came about,” he said.
The state does have some regulations already in place. Barbara Currier Bell, a member of the Connecticut Siting Council, told the energy committee at a hearing in February that the agency’s regulations for wind turbines and other projects are “extensive and detailed.”
Nardello said the proposed legislation gives the state time to draft standards on factors such as noise, blade shear, property setbacks and impact on natural resources.
The turbines, which each have a generating capacity of 1.6 megawatts, are the only wind projects proposed for Connecticut. But wind advocates say there’s potential in Connecticut despite the lack of high elevations, vast flatlands or “wind corridors” from open oceans that whip up powerful gusts.
“Just because it’s not the best doesn’t mean it can’t work here,” said Francis Pullaro, executive director of Renewable Energy New England, a trade group that represents predominantly large energy developers.
BNE’s Corey said studies on sound and wildlife show that the impacts are minimal.
“In my view, people just don’t want to look at them” he said. “That’s the main opposition.”
The Connecticut Siting Council will make a decision on BNE Energy’s Prospect project by May 16. Nardello said her committee’s legislation could be passed and signed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy before mid-May, and it could take up to 18 months to write new regulations.
Malloy was noncommittal when asked about the issue Thursday, saying he hasn’t given the legislation much thought.
His environmental commissioner, Daniel C. Esty, said through a spokesman that Esty does not believe a moratorium is the correct approach.
“He does feel, however, that there may be a need for regulations that establish general parameters and guidelines to help bring more clarity and consistency to siting decisions,” spokesman Dennis Schain said
Corey said the law would be a setback for his project and wind development in Connecticut.
“I think when you look overall at the big picture and what we need to do as a society to move to green energy, having wind in Connecticut and across the country is necessary and it’s a good thing,” he said.
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