Noise vs. History – Showdown on Wind in Connecticut

Timlynn Babitsky | Issues: Strategies & Tactics | Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

By Timlynn Babitsky
Once again the battle lines are drawn. “Sure I support wind power but don’t put those turbines in my back yard.” At issue again is how close is close; how loud is turbine noise; and does history trump the future. The problem is, commercial wind power in this state could hang on the siting commission’s decision.
Michael and Stella Somers have turned a bit of Connecticut history into a B&B family business. Like David faced with Goliath, they see their livelihood threatened by BNE Energy Inc., which has applied to construct three, 460-foot-tall commercial wind turbines within a half-mile of their B&B.

The Somers claim that’s much too close – “at 500 feet from the turbine (at a location they visited) we couldn’t hear each other talk” they claim. The couple says BNE ignored their location’s historic status when it proposed erecting wind turbines half a mile away.

Under state law, the nine-member Connecticut Siting Council will review BNE’s petition. It has sole jurisdiction over construction of any type of electric-generating facilities. The council’s executive director notes that concerns of local residents are taken into account as are a project’s impact on the environment and public safety.

The Somers have petitioned the council to participate in the hearings claiming BNE ignored their historic location when siting its wind farm a half a mile away.

In turn, BNE Energy counter filed a petition to deny the Somers’ request saying that the couple’s claims are irrelevant under the Siting Council’s guidelines. “BNE need only establish that the proposed project complies with air and water quality standards of the Department of Environmental Protection.”

To add to the conflict, the Somers’ property was not added to the National Register of Historic Places until last July. It was too late for BNE’s consultants to include that fact in the company’s proposal.

This will be the first time the council reviews a commercial wind farm proposal and its decision will affect the future of commercial wind development in the state. To read more, click here.

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