Siting Council rejects Prospect wind farm
Credit: By JASON SIEDZIK, Register Citizen Staff, registercitizen.com 13 May 2011 ~~
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NEW BRITAIN – BNE Energy’s first industrial wind farm in Connecticut will not be located in Prospect.
Their proposal, considered a forerunner of the proposed turbines in Colebrook, was rejected by a 6-2 vote from the Connecticut Siting Council. As BNE Energy had requested, vice chairman Colin Tait recused himself from the proceedings before the vote.
“We’re very disappointed with the Council’s vote to deny the first wind project in the state, based on the fact that people may see the turbines,” BNE Energy Chairman Paul Corey said. “It’s a sad day for Connecticut and the future of renewable energy in the state.”
The motion before the Connecticut Siting Council found “that the visual impacts associated with the construction, operation and maintenance of the proposed 3.2 megawatt wind renewable generating facility at the proposed site are in conflict with the policies of the state concerning such effects, and therefore, sufficient reason to deny the proposed facility.”
Council members Phil Ashton, Barbara Bell, Dan Lynch, James Murphy, Brian Golumbiewski and Edward Wilensky voted in favor of motion – and, consequently, against the proposal – while Robert Stein and Ken Braffman, the designee for Department of Public Utility Control chairmain Kevin Delgado, voted against the motion.
The proposed turbines in Prospect would be similar to the proposals straddling Route 44 in Colebrook. Combined, the two turbines in the Prospect plan would have generated 3.2 megawatts of power. If Colebrook’s proposal is approved, the turbines could generate three to four times the power demanded by Colebrook.
The motion to reject the proposal cited aesthetic concerns, which go against the state’s laws. Similar concerns have been brought up by opposition parties in the Colebrook hearings, but Corey expressed his disappointment at the decision. The aesthetic reasoning, though, limits the scope of the decision to just the Prospect proposal’s surroundings, as the parcel of land in question is closer to a more densely populated region.
“The facts are different in Colebrook,” Corey said.
Rejection from the Connecticut Siting Council is exceedingly rare, according to some parties with experience before the council. Cornwall First Selectman Gordon Ridgeway said – after a requested cellular tower in his town was approved – that 95 percent of the projects that go before the council are approved. BNE Energy chairman Paul Corey, though, said that the Connecticut Siting Council demands rigorous research and is not merely a rubber stamp.
“It certainly was not a good decision from our point of view,” Corey said, “but it wouldn’t preclude an approval in Colebrook.”
Tait, who has served as acting chairman, was the second person to fill the chair and recuse himself during the proceedings. Daniel Caruso, who was the council’s chairman until his March resignation, backed away after accusations of improper communications with Save Prospect’s attorney were raised by the attorney in question, Jeffrey Tinley. Many of the parties against the turbines did not have much experience before the council, as Caruso said during the incident in question.
Tait stepped aside Wednesday after his involvement with the Colebrook Land Conservancy – and its ties with FairwindCT, another opposition group – became an issue. The Colebrook Land Conservancy is not a party in the Colebrook hearings, but the group spoke out against the proposed turbines during public hearings at Northwestern Regional High School in March. Joyce Hemingson, president of FairwindCT, is the secretary for the Colebrook Land Conservancy, while Tait is a member of the conservancy.
“At this point, it’s another example of Connecticut closing its doors to business,” Corey said. “We’re going to wait and see what happens with Colebrook.”
While the scope of the ruling may be limited to Prospect, the proposal has been seen as a bellweather for how proceedings will play out in Colebrook. The accuracy of that viewpoint will be settled in the coming weeks as the Connecticut Siting Council releases its draft findings of fact in the Colebrook petitions. The council released their draft findings on Colebrook South, the first project to have its findings scheduled, on Thursday, with draft findings on Colebrook North scheduled for May 17.
“We’re hopeful that council members will consider that in Colebrook and come to a different conclusion,” Corey said.
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