Rep. John Piscopo, a Thomaston Republican who voted against the bill, said he has general concerns about the size and impact of gigantic turbines. “The footprint that these wind turbines take up — acres and acres of property,” Piscopo told his colleagues on the House floor. “The footprint to produce that kind of energy is huge. They’re going to dwarf any skyscraper you can think of. ... My concerns also are with the migratory bird population. A lot of our migratory birds follow the Gulf Stream. They call them the Cuisinarts of the sky. They really do chew up birds.”
Anticipating the day when the Millstone nuclear power plant will be retired, legislators voted overwhelmingly Tuesday for a plan that could lead to 1,000 wind turbines in federal waters off the coast of New London.
The bipartisan plan would take about 10 years to reach the peak of 1,000 turbines about 40 to 60 miles off the Connecticut coastline – far beyond the pioneering turbines off Block Island.
The measure passed the state House of Representatives by a 134-10 vote.
Legislators said Connecticut has the precise geography and a prime location for a growing industry.
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“New England is often referred to as the Saudi Arabia of off-shore wind,” said Rep. Charles Ferraro of West Haven, the energy committee’s ranking House Republican. “Connecticut is poised to be a hub of offshore wind. We have three deepwater ports with no bridge obstructions. New London has gotten the majority of the attention in the media, but New Haven and Bridgeport” can also benefit from the bill, he said.
Ferraro said the bipartisan bill was designed to the show the state’s commitment to investing in an emerging business.
“We wanted to send a message out to the industry that Connecticut is in the business of offshore wind,” he said.
The state recently pledged $35.5 million to upgrade and redevelop the State Pier in New London in a public-private partnership with Eversource and Ørsted, a wind energy company based in Denmark. The deal, which costs $93 million overall, is directly related to helping the offshore wind industry by upgrading the pier’s infrastructure in order to handle heavy-lift cargo.
“Our administration is working hard to put Connecticut in a place to become the center hub of the offshore wind industry in New England, and this legislation moves us one step closer to making that a reality,” said Gov. Ned Lamont, who pledged to sign the bill if passed by the Senate. “This is an opportunity that we cannot squander, and the growing, unified momentum behind this bill shows just how important this is to Connecticut.”
The bill requires the state environmental department to request proposals from developers of offshore wind energy. The bill also requires the state to reduce the impact on wildlife and the commercial fishing industry both during the construction of the turbines and once they are operating by requiring bidders to submit mitigation plans.
The Millstone power plant is aging and will eventually reach the end of its useful life, legislators said. By the time many of the turbines are expected to be running in 10 years, the transition of power from Millstone would be timely, they said. One turbine generates 10 megawatts of power, and the state is initially looking for 2,000 megawatts, which is roughly the same amount of power Millstone, in Waterford, provides.
Rep. David Arconti, a Danbury Democrat who co-chairs the energy committee, says the bill will “catalyze a new maritime industry in our state.”
The state wants to take advantage of a federal tax credit that expires at the end of 2019, and the bill requires the state to move quickly, he said.
Vineyard Wind, a Massachusetts company that is developing an 800 megawatt wind farm off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, praised the bill’s passage. The company said it would invest millions to revitalize Bridgeport Harbor for use as a staging area if it is accepted as a supplier of wind energy for the state.
“[The bill] gives the state a real opportunity to create good paying jobs with good benefits in an industry that’s poised for huge growth in the coming years,” said Eric Stephens, Vineyard Wind’s chief development officer. “We’re excited by the momentum we saw today and look forward to submitting a proposal that will bring tens of millions of dollars of investment to Bridgeport.”
Some lawmakers are concerned about avoiding potentially negative impacts on the thriving fishing industry off the Connecticut shoreline.
Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, said 10 million pounds of seafood are brought ashore each year in Stonington and New London. He wants to avoid any disruption to scallop beds or other fish habitats.
The project, he said, will make a major difference in renewable energy in Connecticut and beyond.
“Five years ago, it was mostly rooftop solar … and then all of a sudden Deepwater Wind sticks their toe in the water and does a little offshore wind off Block Island,” Formica said. “If we can provide an opportunity to develop component-assembly manufacturing plants around Norwich, Willimantic, Columbia, this could be a ballooning opportunity for all of eastern Connecticut.”
Rep. John Piscopo, a Thomaston Republican who voted against the bill, said he has general concerns about the size and impact of gigantic turbines.
“The footprint that these wind turbines take up – acres and acres of property,” Piscopo told his colleagues on the House floor. “The footprint to produce that kind of energy is huge. They’re going to dwarf any skyscraper you can think of. … My concerns also are with the migratory bird population. A lot of our migratory birds follow the Gulf Stream. They call them the Cuisinarts of the sky. They really do chew up birds.”
Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-Westport, supports the plan for its economic impact and because it would move the state toward renewable energy and away from fossil fuels, but he said he wants to make sure the environment is protected during heavy industrial activities offshore when installing the turbines.
“Ultimately, I think this will be great for ratepayers, great for jobs and great for the state of Connecticut,” Steinberg said.
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