Before any commercial wind farms are allowed in Connecticut, some state officials and legislators are calling for regulations on the industry.
Without these, according to regulations advocates, the wind farms could be built too close to homes, creating a host of nuisances.
Ten days ago, the state Siting Council rejected an energy company’s proposal to build two 492-foot industrial turbines in Prospect on the grounds that the negative visual effects were too great.
“I remember there were so many variables,” said Kenneth Braffman, a state attorney assigned to the case. “And we have never sited one before, so we have no previous experience.
“Had there been regulations, we would have had (guidance) on issues like closeness to neighborhoods, shadow conditions and closeness to the electricity grid. We would have benefited from the criteria. The record wasn’t enough.”
The Siting Council is expected to rule within the next month on two other commercial wind projects proposed by the same company in Colebrook.
State Rep. Vickie Nardello, D-Bethany, proposed legislation to impose a moratorium on all wind turbines in the state until the council can draft regulations for the machines.
But the chairman of BNE Energy, the company that proposed the wind energy projects, said he does not think regulations are necessary.
“We don’t have regulations for gas plants, coal plants or transmission lines,” Paul Corey said. “The Siting Council will be sending the wrong message if it puts additional regulations on a Class 1 renewable, but not on coal.”
The council regulates wind projects over one megawatt.
Massachusetts allows municipalities to decide their own property setbacks, while New York has a statewide policy.
An Office of Legislative Research study found only 10 states (including Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont) have statewide regulations specific to wind projects. Many more states, however, have towns with local regulations.
Connecticut’s regulations should not allow any commercial wind projects within 0.6 mile of residential property lines, said Tony Interlandi, an attorney for Save Prospect, a group of residents opposed to the Prospect wind project. He cited the figure from a 2007 study prepared by the National Research Council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences. The NRC posits that health effects diminish beyond 0.5 mile.
The state should also regulate how much shadow flicker, which happens when the sun is directly behind the blades, should be allowed, Interlandi said. The industry standard, set by wind turbine manufacturers, is 30 hours per year.
Lastly, the state government should regulate ice throw, which happens when blades spin off frozen precipitation, Interlandi said. Manufacturers have the technology to mitigate ice throw, but not all companies elect to add it.
The Federal Aviation Administration has guidelines for lighting and colors, guidelines which BNE elected to follow.
Since BNE is the first company seeking to put commercial wind farms in Connecticut, it will be setting the legal standard if the projects are approved, Corey said.
“In essence, their decision sets the regulations for future projects,” Corey said. “Future developers will look to these decisions. If they’re not approved, they’ll take their projects elsewhere. I know we will.”
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