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Connecticut Siting Council approves Colebrook wind farm today despite protests  

Credit:  By JANICE PODSADA, The Hartford Courant, www.courant.com 9 June 2011 ~~

NEW BRITAIN – Under the stony glare of a dozen protesters, the Connecticut Siting Council voted 6-1 to approve the second half of a controversial Colebrook commercial wind farm.

Together the two properties, Colebrook North, a 125-acre site, and Colebrook South, an 80-acre site, will form Connecticut’s first commercial wind farm, a $24 million project whose six, 492-foot turbines will have the capicity of generating up to 9.6 megawatts of electricity.

The council aproved the first half of the $24 million project last week.

Demonstrators gathered Thursday morning inside the council’s New Britain chambers to challenge the council’s authority and denounce a decision they say will ruin their community.

Stella Somers, owner of Rock Hall manor house in Colebrook, a 10,000-square-foot home listed on the National Register of Historic Places, called the decision “devastating” The project will result in the construction of a wind turbine a half-mile from their home.

After spending three years renovating the property, Somers and her husband, Michael, opened Rock Hall as a bed and breakfast in 2008.

“We only have peace and quiet to offer. When that’s stripped from us – what do we have to offer?” said Stella Somers, after council members rendered their decision.

Protesters directed taunts and accusations at executives at BNE Energy Inc., the wind developer, outside council chambers.

Joyce Hemingson, president of the FairWindCt citizens group, said the group will consider appealing the decision in Superior Court. Other protesters asked why the Colebrook wind farm project was approved while a wind farm project in Prospect was rejected.

“Different representative,” replied Karin Lawrence, referring to Rep. Vickie Nardello, the Democratic co-chair of the energy and technology council who lives in Prospect.

“What’s needed here is not an appeal but a grand jury investigation,” added Lawrence, a Colebrook resident and senior vice president of the Connecticut Development Authority.

Lawrence later lashed out at a BNE representative, saying, “I hope you’re getting paid really well for this.”

Gregory Zupkus, the firm’s president, who was on hand for the vote, dismissed the demonstrators as a tiny minority.

“Those are about 10 people out of a town of 1,000,” Zupkus said. He referenced a recent survey that he said showed 89 percent of Americans “want more wind energy.” BNE plans to begin construction of the Colebrook wind farm this summer.

Birthplace Of 1{+s}{+t} Commercial Wind Turbine

Connecticut had the nation’s first commercially successful windmills. In 1854, Daniel Halladay of Coventry developed a new type of windmill that within a decade or two, dotted the 19th century American landscape, according to Windmillersgazette.com. Halladay’s windmills became a familiar feature of the American landscape, immortalized in 19th century illustrations and lithographs.

Opponents fear the landscape will be dotted with the giant turbines. Testifying in favor of a proposed wind farm regulations bill, Joyce Hemingson, president of FairWindCt, told lawmakers that a recent study concluded the state could accommodate more than 1,500 commercial scale wind turbines.

For now, Connecticut is the only New England state that doesn’t have at least one commercial wind farm.

In the coming months, two factors could influence whether wind developers will invest in the state’s wind resources: a lengthy appeal process, which could deter further investments and proposals; and regulations that are yet to be written by the newly created state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Those rules became a requirement with the passage of a wind regulations bill. The rules are intended to create clear standards governing setbacks – the distance a turbine must be “set back” from businesses and residences, noise levels and other issues based on the scale and height of the turbines.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Vickie Nardello, D-Prospect, said she was hopeful the regulations will be completed within 12 months.

“I don’t know whether the regulations will continue to encourage wind developers to come to the state or not– I don’t know the answer to that,” said Joe Rinebold, director of the energy initiative for the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology.

Opponents may disagree, but as Rinebold sees it, the projects in Prospect and Colebrook had very large setbacks.

“If the regulations require setbacks that are much larger than what was proposed for those two projects then it could be a barrier to further wind development. If they are generally consistent with the distances proposed for those two facilities, then I think you will continue to see wind developers come to Connecticut,” Rinebold said.

The regulations aren’t expected to apply to smaller wind turbines. Anything greater than a 1 megawatt turbine requires the siting council approval. Smaller projects are under the purview of the local municipality.

“If I were a developer a had a wind turbine technology that was lower than 1 megawatt, I would be looking at Connecticut, particularly since the new Energy Reform bill provides renewable energy credits for these smaller systems,” said Bryan Garcia, president of the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund.

Optiwind in Torrington, which manufactures wind turbines up to 300 kilowatts, and Arcjet are two Connecticut companies developing smaller scale wind turbines, Garcia added.

Source:  By JANICE PODSADA, The Hartford Courant, www.courant.com 9 June 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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