House takes up wind turbine siting bill

State House News Service

The House budget committee is polling members on three bills, including a Senate bill changing the rules around siting for land-based wind projects. The Senate passed the bill in February, after the Patrick administration lobbied for it last year. It would streamline the permitting process for land-based wind energy projects, intended to spur the development of renewable energy.

Supporters say the proposal will help speed the development of wind turbines, which have become entangled in a complicated process with numerous permitting hurdles and persistent local opponents. The bill, they say, would create construction jobs and could bring down energy prices by taking pressure off the demand for other forms of energy.

The bill requires an advisory group, in conjunction with state agencies, environmental groups, and regional stakeholders, to develop siting standards for wind projects. Towns determined to have enough wind resources to be suitable for development would be required to establish “wind energy permitting boards” to oversee the entire permitting process for wind projects, rather than a divided process among several local boards. In addition, the Energy Facilities Siting Board would oversee a more rapid permitting process for wind facilities two megawatts or larger that require state permits.

The bill also deems municipalities who host wind projects as meeting requirements to be labeled Green Communities under a 2008 bill that incentivized towns to support renewable energy projects.