COLEBROOK – Nearly 18 months after the Connecticut Siting Council approved a pair of industrial wind turbines in Colebrook, the turbines have yet to see the light of day, as the main players in the battle over the turbines are still at work.
Both BNE Energy, which will erect the turbines, and FairwindCT, which formed in opposition to the proposals, will have dates in court on Dec. 17. FairwindCT sued BNE Energy to prevent the turbines’ construction, and although BNE Energy won both battles – the lawsuit over the Colebrook South project was thrown out because the plaintiffs would not be negatively impacted by the turbines, and BNE Energy won the other lawsuit outright – FairwindCT has appealed both decisions.
“In essence, they’re not affected by the projects,” said Paul Corey of the Colebrook South decision, adding that as far as their projects are concerned, “certainly having an appeal is an issue, but it’s managable.”
Both parties will be in appellate court on Dec. 17 for a pre-appeal hearing to set a timeline, as well as potentially kicking the appeal up to the Supreme Court. Corey would be amenable to such a decision, as “every time, the appeal gets more difficult to win on their end.”
“We feel really good that this Superior Court’s decision is going to be upheld,” Corey said. “Voth decisions were very favorable to us, as we expected.”
However, Joyce Hemingson, the president of FairwindCT, said the mission is larger than just the six turbines proposed in Colebrook. Since the Connecticut Siting Council signed off on the projects – and rejected a similar proposal for wind turbines in Prospect – the council has drafted regulations at the Connecticut General Assembly’s behest.
These regulations will be before the state’s regulations review committee on Dec. 18, where they are expected by Hemingson to pass.
If the regulations are enacted, Hemingson said the mission will be a success, since “we’re just trying to get good regulations going for Connecticut.”
“That was one of the other missions for FairwindCT when we got started two years ago,” Hemingson said. “It’s important that we have good regulationss for the state, even though it looks like industrial wind will not be a major factor.”
According to Hemingson, studies have shown that the turbines to be built in Colebrook will not operate anywhere near their maximum efficiency and will not accomplish much in Connecticut.
Hemingson noted that studies of six turbines in Maine showed that “the efficiencies there are not impressive either,” after a study from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
“DEEP is estimating that they’ll be 27.9 percent efficient,” said Hemingson. “People have to realize that wind is not going to reach the level of base load generation.”
Corey, though, was not concerned about the regulations, which will likely be enacted before BNE Energy can even begin to build the turbines.
Corey said that “the regulations should be in place in a month or two,” although “it’s possible they could make changes. I’ve seen it before.” However, regulations are just one of the numerous hurdles that the turbines will have to negotiate. Another complication came from the Army Corps of Engineers, which sent out a letter stating that the northern project will negatively impact Rock Hall Inn, whose owners had been one of the groups fighting the turbines.
“Based on the evidence provided to us, we find that the Wind Colebrook North project may alter the characteristics of Rock Hall Inn that qualified it for inclusion in the National Register,” the letter states.
Hemingson also spoke out against the likely impact of wind energy in Connecticut at the Nov. 26 hearing on Governor Dannel Malloy’s energy plan in Torrington. The plan was criticized for – as numerous oil company owners stated – tilting the field towards large natural gas companies, but Hemingson said that the plan itself acknowldges that “Connecticut has limited wind potential.”
“The question is how and where would these proposed wind turbines fit into these towns?” Hemingson asked.
Regardless of the critiques, Corey is confident that BNE Energy will see the proposed wind turbines through to completion.
“We’re on track to have Colebrook be the first commercial wind project in the state,” said Corey.
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