By Luther Turmelle, New Haven Register | 10/15/15 | www.nhregister.com
COLEBROOK >> Eight years after BNE Energy first acquired 80 acres in this Litchfield County community and proposed creating the state’s first commercial wind farm, company executives and state political leaders celebrated the launch of the project by putting one of a pair of mammoth turbines into service Thursday off of Flagg Hill Road.
Two of the three turbines that were approved for the site have been erected and tower over the nearby landscape including Route 44. But only one of the turbines, which were erected in August, went into operation after the ceremony at the 10-acre site, which is 1,500 feet above sea level.
“We had a passion for finding wind energy in the state of Connecticut,” said Greg Zupkus, BNE Energy’s president and chief executive officer. “We knew from day one that Connecticut being the only state not having wind power, that the wind didn’t just hop over our state.”
BNE Energy has a 20-year contract to sell the power the turbines produce to Eversource Energy, said Zupkus, whose wife, Lezlye, is a Republican state representative from Prospect. Paul Corey, BNE’s chairman, said that once both wind turbines are operational, they will produce about five megawatts of electricity, enough to light 2,000 homes.
Corey said officials with General Electric, which made the turbines, and Eversource Energy were checking the second turbine’s interconnection with the electric grid. BNE will not erect the third turbine until it secures a contract for the electricity that unit produces, he said.
“We see this as the future of Connecticut,” Corey said.
Both Corey and Zupkus said the company, which already has regulatory approval to build another wind farm in another part of Colebrook, is scouting for other sites. While they declined to get into specifics, Corey said they are concentrating their search in northern Connecticut.
While Corey and Zupkus declined to reveal the cost of the project, Bert Hunter, executive vice president and chief investment officer with the Connecticut Green Bank, said the cost is roughly $23 million. The Green Bank is a quasi-public institution that provides low-cost, long-term financing support to clean and renewable energy projects in the state by using a variety of financial mechanisms to attract private investment along with public funding.
Hunter said $2.8 million of the financing for the project is coming from the Green Bank with BNE putting $2.1 million of its own money into the project. The largest share of the financing for the project, $12.1 million, came from Webster Bank, he said.
State Rep. Lonnie Reed, D-Branford, co-chairwoman of the General Assembly’s Energy and Technology Committee, said the project “took passion … and some serious money … before there was any iron in the ground.”
“That is commitment,” Reed said. “And now, when people see this, they’re going to want one of these in their town.”
Part of the reason the project took so long, though, is that opponents of the project took their efforts to block BNE all the way to the Connecticut Supreme Court. The state’s high court ruled in BNE’s favor last year.
“We’re obviously disappointed,” said Joyce Hemingson, a Colebrook resident and president of FairWindCT, the group that led the fight to block the project. “The money that the state’s Green Bank contributed to this is coming off the utility bills of individuals. Now we’ll wait and see how it effects the people who live near there.”
Hemingson noted that attempts by BNE to build a wind farm in Prospect were rejected by the Connecticut Siting Council.
URL to article: https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2015/10/19/connecticuts-first-commercial-wind-farm-powers-up-in-colebrook/