RENEW Northeast submitted testimony to the Connecticut legislature’s environmental committee in favor of amending a law passed last year that is having a chilling effect on developers seeking new sites for utility-scale solar projects in Connecticut. Under the law, the Department of Agriculture is able to force a utility-scale solar energy project into the more expensive and lengthy Siting Council permit process designed for the evaluation of large (over 65 megawatts) fossil-fueled plants. To achieve Connecticut’s environmental, renewable and economic development goals, a solar energy project should not face a riskier and costlier permitting process compared to smaller projects (65 megawatts or less) to be fueled by natural gas or oil, or a permanent housing or commercial development.
The Connecticut General Assembly has enacted Senate Bill No. 943, “An Act Concerning the Installation of Certain Solar Facilities on Productive Farmlands” that singles out the least-cost form of solar development by imposing a permitting process established for large-scale fossil fueled power plants. As RENEW explained in a recent op-ed, this bill penalizing solar development placed on farmland will jeopardize past and future energy solicitations intended to bring clean energy, low electricity prices, economic development and sound environmental policy to the state.
Renewable Energy New England, Inc., (RENEW) applauds Governor Dannel Malloy for supporting new statutory provisions that will expand the benefits of affordable renewable energy for Connecticut electricity customers. Those provisions, included in larger energy legislation Senate Bill 1138 and House Bill 6360, both of which recently achieved final passage in the legislature, will help encourage the development of new, affordable renewable energy in Connecticut and New England.
RENEW praises Senate President Donald Williams and House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, Energy & Technology Committee Co-Chairs Sen. Bob Duff and Rep. Lonnie Reed, Committee Ranking Members Sen. Clark Chapin and Rep. Laura Hoydick, the full membership of the House and Senate, and Department of Energy and Environment Protection (DEEP) Commissioner Daniel Esty for their leadership in expanding Connecticut’s nationally leading energy policies.
“A section of Senate Bill 1138 authorizes DEEP to enter into long-term contracts with renewable energy developers. Long-term contracting opportunities will enable the industry to make long-term investments and reduce the cost of RPS compliance for consumers. Across the country, renewable energy long-term contracts result in lower costs for consumers with the added benefit of drawing economic investments into states where the projects are located. The resulting projects stand to give the administration’s ‘cleaner, cheaper’ energy agenda a major advance.” said RENEW Executive Director Francis Pullaro.
The bill also gives the state the opportunity to coordinate its procurement of renewable energy with the other New England states following a resolution adopted at the 2012 meeting of the New England Governors’ Conference. The benefits from regional coordination will arise by capturing some of the economies of scale from larger renewable energy projects and, in the years ahead, potentially facilitating additional intra-regional transmission capacity to deliver the energy from those resources.
Utility-scale wind projects in particular have been highlighted in recent analyses for the New England States as the leading solution to meet New England’s collective renewable energy goals. Large scale wind resources are clean, cost-effective and enhance the reliability of our region’s bulk power system.
To help ensure Connecticut receives the economic development benefits of having those projects sited in the state, House Bill 6360 contains a provision to facilitate the adoption of wind siting regulations that have been drafted by the Connecticut Siting Council. Adoption of the regulations will allow wind project developers to submit new applications to build projects in the state.
Following the release of a report by an independent expert panel that was tasked by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) to review potential health concerns related to wind turbines, Renewable Energy New England’s Executive Director, Francis Pullaro, remarked, “The report discredits common criticism about wind turbine produced sound that is brought by opponents of wind generation development. With wind projects held to a higher standard for siting in Massachusetts than traditional fossil fuel generators, RENEW hopes this study will inform policymakers that more efficient regulations on wind energy projects are appropriate. Wind power is a source of energy that will enable New England to its meet renewable energy goals cost effectively and reduce its reliance on air polluting power plants. RENEW will be reviewing the report more closely and will submit detailed comments during the public comment period.”
Last year, the DEP and DPH convened a panel of independent academic experts with backgrounds in public health, epidemiology, toxicology, neurology and sleep medicine, neuroscience, and mechanical engineering to analyze “the biological plausibility or basis for health effects of turbines (noise, vibration, and flicker).” The review of existing studies included both peer-reviewed and non-peer reviewed literature.
Among the key findings of the panel are:
• There is no evidence for a set of health effects, from exposure to wind turbines that could be characterized as “Wind Turbine Syndrome.”
• Claims that infrasound from wind turbines directly impacts the vestibular system have not been demonstrated scientifically. Available evidence shows that the infrasound levels near wind turbines cannot impact the vestibular system.
• The strongest epidemiological study suggests that there is not an association between noise from wind turbines and measures of psychological distress or mental health.
• None of the limited epidemiological evidence reviewed suggests an association between noise from wind turbines and pain and stiffness, diabetes, high blood pressure, tinnitus, hearing impairment, cardiovascular disease, and headache/migraine.
• Scientific evidence suggests that shadow flicker does not pose a risk for eliciting seizures as a result of photic stimulation.
Significant barriers to the siting of wind turbines are holding back Massachusetts’ ability to capitalize on economic development opportunities explain the New England Clean Energy Council and RENEW in an opinion piece in the Cape Cod Times. The Massachusetts legislature has before it bills to improve Massachusetts’ wind permitting process to allow the Commonwealth to meet its potential in wind energy.
Read it here.
RENEW’s Executive Director testified in Barnstable before the Massachusetts legislature’s Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy in favor of the wind siting reform bills (H1775 and S1666 and H1759). The legislation will set permitting standards for wind generators that come as close as possible in efficiency as those for large conventional power plants while striking the right balance on local control. Local permitting authorities will continue to apply local ordinances under a new streamlined approval processes.