HARTFORD – The state House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved legislation Tuesday requiring first-ever regulations governing state review of wind power projects.
Lawmakers voted 132-6 to back the bill calling on the Connecticut Siting Council to adopt regulations on setbacks, a wind power project’s impact on natural resources and other factors.
Rep. Vickie Nardello, the House chairwoman of the Energy and Technology Committee, said she hopes regulations would be drafted within a year. She has said legislation gives the state time to draft standards on factors such as noise, blade shear, property setbacks and impact on natural resources.
Nardello, a Democrat, said there are no specifications in law or regulations addressing the siting of wind turbines.
But 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.”
Rep. Arthur O’Neill, R-Southbury, warned against the Siting Council taking too much time to draft rules, particularly environmental regulations.
“We’re trying to get these regulations done quickly,” he said.
Rep. Larry Miller, R-Stratford, said regulations are needed to make sure turbines “are placed in proper areas” and have no safety or other impacts on nearby residents.
Connecticut set goals in 2000 to increase renewable energy in its portfolio of power sources.
An annual plan submitted to state regulators last year sought significant increases in megawatts generated by landfill gas, hydro power, biomass, fuel cells and solar energy by 2030. But wind power and offshore wind were not forecast to generate any power.
Connecticut has no operating wind power turbines.
Advocates for wind power 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.
Earlier this month, the Siting Council rejected the first proposal in the state, a turbine in Prospect that drew opposition from some residents. The council cited the project’s visual impact.
Residents who organized against the project said the proposed wind turbines were too close to homes and said legislation is needed. Opponents said the project, which would have been built in Nardello’s district, was too close to residential neighborhoods, reducing home values with the noise from the blades and the flicker of sunlight.
Paul Corey, chairman of BNE Energy Inc., said its proposal would have been far from residences. He opposes regulations, saying rules already govern wind power and more are not needed.
Nardello said during House debate that the industry would welcome the new law because it could provide “regulatory certainty” for wind turbine construction.
BNE has a separate wind power proposal in Colebrook that will be decided by the Siting Council in June.
Rep. Len Greene, R-Seymour, told colleagues during House debate that he opposed the legislation. The Siting Council has done a good job regulating the siting of cell phone towers and power plants and does not need legislative demands for specific requirements, he said.
“If we want to locate and site wind power we’re going to have to have some flexibility,” he said.
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