Siting Council holds forum on wind energy rules


NEW BRITAIN — The Connecticut Siting Council asked the public to outline what they want new wind project regulations to look like last Thursday.

The afternoon forum, which attracted only six speakers, is the first step in creating rules on where new wind turbines can be built. The council faces a June 2012 deadline.

It plans to release draft regulations in December.

The council quashed BNE Energy’s effort to erect turbines in Prospect, but approved its petitions to install six big turbines in Colebrook. Neighbors are appealing the decision.

During the forum, four Colebrook and Prospect residents who are fighting BNE asked for regulations that limit turbine noise, light pollution, vibrations and proximity to neighbors.

Stella Somers of Colebrook, who owns a historic bed and breakfast near three approved wind turbines, urged protection for historic buildings and scenic natural sites.

The rules ought to give state historic preservation officials the ability to nix projects that they believe will have an adverse impact on historic properties, she said.

“By preserving the historic architecture, you’re preserving human history,” Somers said. “By understanding the past, the people are better able to cope with the present.”

But residents are obviously wary of the council’s intentions.

Joyce Hemingson of Colebrook, president of FairwindCT, the main turbine opposition group, cited Upton Sinclair as she accused the council of abandoning residents before.

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on him not understanding it,” she quoted. “I hope this public forum does not turn into another black hole.”

The statements of opponents were met with silence. That may be because FairwindCT is suing the council in hopes of overturning its approval of the Colebrook turbines.

Council members perked up, however, when a developer offered his suggestions, and asked him to elaborate on his ideas and how he decides where he wants to build.

“The most important thing as a developer we would like to see is a very transparent, structured and predictable process,” said Tom Swank of Quantum Utility Generation LLC. Quantum, Swank said, is a $1 billion energy investment fund with offices in Old Saybrook.

Swank, a Madison resident, said that vague guidelines hurt everybody, including ratepayers.

“It makes it more difficult and more costly, and, at the end of the day, if it’s more costly for me, then it will be more costly for ratepayers,” Swank said.

Developers want to know which locations are viable, what studies they will need to do and when, and detailed permitting deadlines, Swank said.

“It will also help the council, making it less subjective when you get into the actual hearing and permitting,” Swank said. “It leads to less second guessing.”

He urged them to review Maine’s rules, which he likes.

He said Connecticut should prepare for more wind permit applications. New turbine technology makes it easier to turn a profit in less windy locations, like Connecticut, he said.