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Court upholds Siting Council’s approval of wind farms in Colebrook

COLEBROOK—In superior court decisions issued Monday, the Connecticut Siting Council’s approval of a pair of commercial wind farm projects in this tiny rural town was upheld, according to a release sent Wednesday morning on behalf of BNE Energy.

“We were always confident,” said BNE president and CEO Greg Zupkus. “It was just nice to see that.”

Mr. Zupkus explained that BNE actually broke ground in December of last year on one of the projects, Wind Colebrook South, and has some more steps to take before resuming work on that wind farm and beginning work on Wind Colebrook North.

“We’re proud that we’ll be the first commercial wind projects in Connecticut,” Mr. Zupkus said in a phone interview. Based on the power the wind turbine projects will generate, Mr. Zupkus said Colebrook will be the first 100 percent green town in Connecticut.

According to the release sent on behalf of BNE Energy by Patty McQueen of Communication Strategies, “The Court determined that the Siting Council properly approved the wind projects and dismissed the appeals after rejecting all claims made by the opponents in the court proceedings. In rendering its decision on Colebrook South, the Court determined that the Somers [family], who own Rock Hall Bed & Breakfast and oppose the wind farm, would not be impacted by the project because it is 1.5 miles from their property.”

The court also determined that other opponents of the wind farms would not be adversely impacted, the release said.

“The Court rulings support the overwhelming evidence demonstrated by BNE Energy during the Siting Council proceedings that the projects have numerous and significant environmental, economic and societal benefits to the local community and the state at large,” the release said. “Wind Colebrook will provide more than four times the amount of electricity the entire town of Colebrook uses on average over the course of the year making Colebrook a true ‘green’ community.”

According to a Litchfield County Times story published when the lawsuits were filed, one suit came from FairWindCT and the other was filed by Stella and Michael Somers, the owners of Rock Hall Luxe Lodging, a bed-and-breakfast near one turbine site. They claimed the turbines’ impact would hurt their business.

The Connecticut Siting Council approved the Colebrook projects in separate decisions in June 2011.

The separate wind farms would straddle Route 44 near the Norfolk border. Combined, the two projects would generate 9.6 megawatts of power. The West Hartford-based startup company’s plans call for erecting 400-foot-tall wind turbines—two sets of three, for six total.

A somewhat similar proposal from BNE Energy in the Naugatuck Valley town of Prospect was denied by the Siting Council in a 5-to-2 vote. The council said the project’s visual impact was too great.

Mr. Zupkus said BNE chose not to pursue an appeal of that denial.

The Connecticut Siting Council has final jurisdiction over the placement of telecommunication towers and some energy infrastructure in the state.

Information from a previous story by Jason Siedzik of the Register Citizen was included in this story.

[updated October 6, 2012]