Connecticut Finally Gives the Green Light to Developers of Wind Power Projects

23 April 2014 Renewable Energy Outlook Blog

Renewable Energy Outlook

New England states have been heavily invested in increasing the amount of generation they procure from renewables. However, Connecticut has been an outlier in preventing the development of one form of renewable generation—wind. For nearly three years, the state legislature’s Regulation and Review Committee has not acted in approving guidelines governing the siting of wind turbines promulgated by the Connecticut Siting Council, the entity with jurisdiction over the siting of power and telecommunications facilities. Much to the chagrin of many state law makers, this delay not only stalled the development of new utility-scale wind projects but made Connecticut the only state in the country to ostensibly ban their construction.

Fortunately, on Earth Day, the state finally approved regulations governing wind turbines that address environmental impacts, setback requirements, technical specifications, shadows, and noise levels. (The regulations are available here.) Now the state is finally open for business to develop wind projects.

That said, Connecticut is not expected to be a major market for wind energy projects. The coast is sheltered by Long Island and it does not have mountains to create strong wind corridors. Nevertheless, wind will still be a necessary component for the state to meets its aggressive renewable portfolio standard, which requires that 27 percent of utilities’ sales come from renewable energy resources by 2020.

In addition, there are favorable financing opportunities for wind projects in Connecticut. The state setup the nation’s first “green bank” (the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA)) in 2011, which pairs public and private dollars to spur renewable development. (A link to our article discussing the green bank financing concept is available here. Proposals to implement a national green bank have recently been introduced in both houses of Congress. The text of the House green bank bill is available here.) We expect that the financing opportunities through the Connecticut green bank, along with the state’s high cost of electricity, should encourage the development of wind power projects. Although, the future for wind projects in Connecticut and nation-wide still heavily depends on whether Congress extends the production tax credit (the “PTC”), which expired January 1, 2014. (To read more about that click here). Regrettably, Connecticut lifted its “ban” on wind projects four months after the PTC expired, which means that unless developers took certain steps prior to the PTC’s expiration date to develop their projects, they will not qualify.

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