Massachusetts to develop wind energy siting guidance

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

As interest continues to grow in the generation electricity from wind energy, the siting of wind projects is an important issue.  While producing power from wind energy avoids the use of fossil fuel along with the emission of carbon dioxide and other pollutants, society has an interest in ensuring that wind projects are developed responsibly and in appropriate locations.  Regulation of sites for wind energy development generally occurs at the state and local levels, and some observers - both wind developers and opponents of specific wind projects - have complained of bad results from a patchwork of regulations, some of which are not based on good science.

Wind turbines in Ipswich, MA, visible across Plum Island Sound from the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge.

In Massachusetts, the state Department of Public Utilities has launched an initiative to remedy this defect.  On October 31, 2013, the Department opened an investgation into best practices for the siting of land-based wind energy facilities.  According to the Department's notice:
The investigation will result in the development of wind energy facility siting guidance based on sound scientific, technical, and policy information. Specifically, the Department will examine the following topics related to land-based wind energy facilities: design, environmental and human health, safety, construction impacts, socio-economic impacts, decommissioning, and the review process for wind projects.
The Department has docketed this case as D.P.U. 13-165, Investigation into Best Practices for Siting of Land-Based Wind Energy Facilities, and has solicited public comment by December 6. Following receipt and review of the comments, the Department anticipates holding public hearings beginning in January.

The guidelines developed through this process will shape the siting and development of land-based wind projects in Massachusetts.  Massachusetts has a strong commitment to renewable energy, as evidenced in the Green Commnities Act, its renewable portfolio standard, and in public sentiment.  That said, to date most wind power consumed in Massachusetts comes in the form of renewable energy certificates representing power generated from wind facilities in Maine and other states, largely due to the relative difficulty of siting a wind energy project in Massachusetts.  Will this process lead to more wind energy development in Massachusetts?


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