February 3, 2017

Contact:   Karl Wagener, Executive Director



Link to Report:


Recommends legislation to help steer energy facilities away from farm and forest toward more appropriate sites

      HARTFORD – The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) published a special report today aimed at stimulating solar energy facilities in places other than farms and forests.

      The report, Energy Sprawl in Connecticut, documents the surge in proposals to use farmland and forest for the construction of large solar electricity-generating facilities.

      “We do not see any need for Connecticut’s land conservation and renewable energy goals to be in conflict,” said Council Chairman Susan Merrow, a resident of East Haddam. “We envision a future with ample solar energy, farms, and forests.”

       The report analyzes recent state decisions affecting utility-scale solar development, and determined that if all of the projects selected by DEEP in 2016 to supply renewable energy are approved and built, many hundreds of acres of farmland and forest will be converted to electricity generation.

      "The Council published the report in draft from last month and received many helpful comments, which led to many improvements," Merrow said.

      The report is recommending legislation to:

  • Require the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to give “meaningful weight” to environmental siting criteria when selecting renewable energy projects that supply electricity to Eversource and United Illuminating. Under current laws and policies, DEEP bases its decisions on the price of electricity supplied, which has led to a surge in projects proposed to be built on farmland and forest, where development is cheapest.

  • Require utility-scale solar developments to obtain a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need from the Connecticut Siting Council (CSC). Current statutes (CGS Section 16-50k) require the CSC to approve such projects by declaratory ruling, and severely limit what the CSC may consider before approving a project. The Certificate, on the other hand, is the approval tool for most facilities regulated by the CSC, from power plants to cell towers, and provides more detailed oversight of siting. In addition, the report urges the General Assembly to amend the statute to allow the CSC to consider impacts to agricultural land in all its decisions.

      The Council also urges DEEP and the General Assembly to consider incentives to encourage developers to put their projects on landfills, industrial lands, and other previously-developed sites. The report notes that earlier this week the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources announced a proposal to do just that.

        “The CEQ is focusing on the legal responsibilities of state agencies to select and approve renewable-energy projects” explained Merrow. “We are not recommending anything that would restrict the rights of landowners.”

          The report is on the CEQ’s website at