Lawmakers and state officials are optimistic they’ve finally struck the right balance in deciding where wind turbines in the state should be located.
An agreement awaiting the approval of the Regulations Review Committee would end a nearly three-year moratorium on wind energy in the state.
The committee plans to discuss the issue for the fourth and perhaps final time at its meeting Tuesday.
Sen. Bob Duff, a Norwalk Democrat who is a member of the Regulations Review Committee, said Monday that he’s “cautiously optimistic” the regulations will be approved. However, he said he’s seen the regulations fail so many times in the past he’s not able to express more confidence. He added that it would also be nice to see it happen on Earth Day.
Duff said that if the regulations are approved Tuesday it gives companies that are in the process of erecting wind turbines enough time to take advantage of the federal wind credits before they expire.
Rep. Selim Noujaim, R-Waterbury, was equally optimistic.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said this is an issue that’s been tied up for more than two years. “It’s time to get regulations promulgated and allow projects that are appropriately sited to move forward,” he said at an unrelated event on energy policy Monday.
The new regulations provide a higher standard for the approval of a waiver of setback distances upon a showing of good cause. The setback defined under the new regulations would be 1.5 times the height of the wind turbine.
But not everyone is impressed.
Joyce Hemingson, president of Fairwind CT, said she’s happy that there will be regulations in place, but she’s not happy with the Siting Council’s decision not to increase the required setback distance for the turbines.
She said that despite her group’s concerns, the Siting Council didn’t increase the setback distance from 1.5 times the height of the turbine. The group doesn’t believe the 738-foot setback will protect a family from the noise and shadow flicker of a 40-story industrial wind turbine.
“I’m glad there will be regulations for the state of Connecticut and things will be refined as they move forward,” Hemingson said Monday.
Fairwind CT states on its website that the regulations are the most lenient in New England.
But Texas-based Pioneer Green Energy, which is developing the Ashford project, told the Hartford Business Journal that if the regulations are not approved at Tuesday’s meeting then the project won’t be commercially viable.
If the project is not off the ground and in service by 2015, then any company looking to build wind turbines would have to forfeit their access to federal tax credits.
The state has only one operating wind turbine in New Haven. There were two others proposed by BNE Energy in Prospect and Colebrook in 2011, which prompted the current moratorium. The Prospect project has since been scrapped and at least one of the two Colebrook projects is awaiting a Supreme Court decision.
The Siting Council, which regulates the location of cellphone towers, has been sparring with the committee and municipalities over how much local control should be allowed in placing wind turbines in a given community.