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Which way will Siting Council winds blow for Colebrook?

NEW BRITAIN – The Connecticut Siting Council could make Colebrook the first town in Connecticut with residential wind turbines as soon as Thursday.

BNE Energy’s petition to build three wind turbines on Flagg Hill Road will be decided June 2 at 11 a.m. The turbines, one half of a matched pair of proposals, would generate 4.8 megawatts of power and would be the first turbines of their kind in the state. However, their location has raised local opposition from a number of parties.

The proposed locations of the turbines were, in one part, a factor in the Connecticut Siting Council’s unofficial straw poll on the Colebrook South proposal. This straw poll found the council in favor of the petition by a 6-1 vote, whereas a similar proposal in Prospect was rejected by a 5-2 vote. A pre-decision straw poll on Prospect’s proposal resulted in the same vote.

The reasoning for the differing opinions, according to the Connecticut Siting Council, was the difference in population density. Colebrook’s population density is a fraction of Prospect’s, according to 2005 United States Census estimates. Compared to Prospect’s 646 people per square mile, Colebrook contains approximately 49 people per square mile.

“It does appear that’s the distinction they’re making between Colebrook and Prospect,” BNE Energy chairman Paul Corey said.

Both Colebrook proposals, as well as the Prospect proposal, have faced organized local opposition. FairwindCT and Save Prospect started in response to the Colebrook and Prospect proposals, respectively, entering their relevant proceedings as parties to the petitions. Their involvement has continued up to the present day, as FairwindCT filed a motion to strike a draft report on bird migration from the Colebrook North record on Tuesday.

The turbine proposals have spurred legislative action as well. State Representative Vickie Nardello, who represents Prospect, helped author a bill that would establish a moratorium until regulations specific to wind turbines. The regulatory aspects of this bill, HB 6249, were later emphasized, and a last-minute amendment delayed the onset of the bill – and consequently, the moratorium – to July 1.

This amendment will effectively exempt the Colebrook proposals from the moratorium, although they would still be subject to whatever regulations might arise. BNE Energy executives Corey and Gregory Zupkus affirmed their receptiveness to regulation, as well as their willingness to participate in the process.

“We’ve always followed best practices in the wind industry for siting,” Zupkus said in an earlier interview.

Colebrook North’s decision should not be far behind, either. Both projects, despite their relation and proximity, are on different schedules. The Connecticut Siting Council will release their draft findings of fact on Colebrook North at the Thursday meeting, and a decision is due June 11.