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Zupkus’ Colebrook wind farm poised to grow

For Gregory Zupkus, president and CEO of West Hartford wind-power developer BNE Energy, 2016 proved to be a mixed bag.

Though a massive wind project the company planned in Goshen doesn’t appear to have a viable path forward, Zupkus and his business partner, BNE Chairman Paul Corey – owners of the state’s sole commercial wind farm in Colebrook – could start construction on a third 3.5-megawatt turbine in Colebrook next year, following a successful bid into a state-run energy program.

“We’re excited that we’re growing in Connecticut,” Zupkus said in a November telephone interview, several weeks after the state notified BNE that its project was among the 24 selected from 100 proposals to enter into power-purchase contracts with utility companies.

The third turbine would push the Colebrook South wind farm’s annual generating capacity to approximately 9 megawatts.

Zupkus and Corey had been looking ahead to the state’s request for proposals (RFP) for some time as an avenue to make a third turbine financially viable.

While the results of the RFP were a victory for BNE, the company didn’t get everything it wanted. BNE also planned a much larger project in nearby Goshen, which included building a six-turbine, 20-megawatt wind farm on an isolated, wooded ridge owned by Torrington Water Co. Though the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection selected several similarly sized wind projects in New York and Vermont, it did not select BNE’s bid.

“It’s obvious it’s on hold at this time,” Zupkus said of the Goshen proposal. “That was an exciting project.”

Zupkus said BNE doesn’t have any other Connecticut projects in the works. The company has had approvals for some time to build another three-turbine farm in Colebrook, but Zupkus said there are no plans to move it forward. He said BNE has begun to look for opportunities outside of the state, including in Oklahoma.

Connecticut has not been an easy state for wind developers. Legislators enacted a three-year moratorium on wind projects in 2011. Opponents of the Colebrook South project staged a lengthy legal battle that ended up in the Connecticut Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of BNE in 2014.

“We’re hoping the process moves a little more quickly in the future,” Zupkus said.