Push for turbines in Conn. hampered by a lack of wind

Connecticut lacks the wind to power commercial turbines, such as this one in Massachusetts. - FILE PHOTO


Energy experts, legislators and power companies in Connecticut are not rushing to embrace wind power.

BNE Energy Inc. of West Hartford wants to build turbines in Prospect and in Colebrook. The company’s proposals, the state’s first for a commercial wind project, got their first review Thursday, after press time, before the Connecticut Siting Council.

As BNE headed into the review, skeptics voiced their opinions that Connecticut simply isn’t windy enough for such a project.

“There is very limited ability to do commercial wind projects in Connecticut,” said state Rep. Vickie O. Nardello (D-Cheshire), co-chairman of the legislative energy and technology committee. Nardello represents Prospect, where anti-turbine forces have organized and felt it might be more effective to rely on wind power generated in other New England states.

Nardello cited ISO-New England, the independent nonprofit organization that oversees New England’s bulk electric power system and transmission lines. ISO-New England has noted that Connecticut has limited wind resources. In all of New England, wind turbines generate 270 megawatts of power, with 3,200 megawatts waiting to be developed. Of that, 1,000 megawatts would be offshore.

Wind power cannot serve all customers’ energy needs, Nardello said.

“The 3.5 megawatts (actually 3.2) being proposed in Prospect could potentially serve one-third of 3,500 homes,” Nardello stated in an e-mail. “Therefore, for Connecticut, it is not the most effective way to meet the renewable portfolio standard.”

Former Gov. M. Jodi Rell set a goal that 20 percent of the state’s energy come from renewable sources, like wind and solar, by 2020.
BNE Energy Inc. has three applications before the Connecticut Siting Council — one for two turbines in Prospect and two for separate projects in Colebrook with three turbines at each site. Each turbine would generate 1.6 megawatts of power.

One megawatt can serve between 750 and 1,000 homes, according to Ellen Foley, an ISO-New England spokesman. Per state law, any device that is proposed to generate more than one megawatt must come before the council for review and approval. The council has not yet begun to review BNE’s applications, but the one for Prospect is on the agenda to be discussed at its Jan. 6 meeting, according to Linda Roberts, the council’s executive director.

An ISO-New England report said significant amounts of wind energy could help achieve environmental goals and mitigate fuel-related wholesale price volatility, but there are engineering challenges “because it is difficult to forecast when and how hard the wind will blow at the precise location of a wind farm.”

System operators, the report continues, need to understand where power will be flowing on the grid at any point in time. ISO-New England is studying how to integrate wind energy into the system at the lowest cost possible. Cost is a concern, with estimates for developing 2,000 megawatts to 12,000 megawatts ranging between $1.6 billion and $25 billion.

BNE, like any electric generator, would sell its energy on the open market. But chances are wind will not impact electric ratepayers’ bills any time soon, said Philip Dukes, Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control spokesman.

He said the problems with wind are its inconsistency and the lack of technology to store wind power in reserve. When the wind isn’t blowing, utilities still need to rely primarily on oil, gas, coal and nuclear energies. “Wind is not plentiful in Connecticut,” he said. “In reality, I’ve never seen anything that costs less than oil, gas or coal. They’re more plentiful and the infrastructure is in place, so their costs are cheaper.”

Paul J. Corey, one of the partners with BNE, acknowledges that Connecticut is not that windy and that homeowners will not see a decrease in their utility bills in the near future. But he and his partner, Gregory J. Zupkus, believe strongly that wind will eventually play an important role in meeting energy needs. As the costs for fossil fuels rise as they become less plentiful, wind will fill the gap, he said.