Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie photo
DEEP Headquarters in Hartford (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie photo)

HARTFORD, CT — An unpaid group of volunteers gathered at the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection headquarters Friday to discuss how they can pursue a strategy that optimizes wind resources while minimizing the impact on fisheries and the environment.

The commission, led by James Albis, senior policy adviser to Commissioner Katie Dykes, will have little time to figure out how they are going to accomplish the task before the request for proposals goes out in the middle of August.

The legislation was signed by Gov. Ned Lamont on June 7.

“Connecticut should be the central hub of the offshore wind industry in New England,” Lamont said. “This emerging industry has the potential to create hundreds of good-paying jobs for the residents of our state and drive economic growth in towns along our shoreline. And by delivering zero-carbon renewable energy, we can increase our region’s fuel security while also making significant progress toward meeting our climate goals. By adopting this new law, we are sending a clear message – Connecticut is serious about becoming a major player in the clean energy economy.”

The law authorizes the state to purchase up to 2,000 megawatts of offshore wind power — the largest authorization by load of any state in the region.

As far as the commission is concerned, the goal will be ensuring that wind doesn’t come at the expense of Connecticut’s environment and commercial fisheries.

There are concerns about the impact offshore wind will have on the migratory pattern of birds and other wildlife like the Atlantic right whale.

The members of the commission, which is comprised of scientists, environmental organizations, and DEEP staffers, will be tasked with facilitating public participation in the process and gathering information about best practices.

It doesn’t have to look far for guidance.

New York and Rhode Island already have been through the process and have resources Connecticut can look at as it undertakes its own review.

Rep. David Michel, D-Stamford, said they should also look to Europe for examples.

There are 91 offshore wind farms in operation in Europe.

Massachusetts also is developing a commercial-scale offshore wind farm — an 800 MW project in federal waters south of Martha’s Vineyard. 

In Rhode Island, the turbines developed by Deepwater Wind ran into problems with commercial fishermen during the construction phase. Fishermen complained that the noise from pile driving scared away fish. There was also concern that the underwater cables permanently altered sea life and damaged fishing gear.

In New York, there have been recent complaints about where the cable should go for the South Fork Wind Farm being developed by Orsted. Fishermen are worried about the impact on migratory patterns of fish.

In Connecticut, the commission is hoping to deal with all of these issues through the RFP process.

The goal is to make sure the key elements of a fisheries and environmental mitigation plan is included in the RFP so the eventual developer has the resources to be able to monitor and study the potential impact.