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Wellfleet selectmen ax turbine plan

WELLFLEET – The town’s $5.3 million wind turbine project is gone with the wind.

The selectmen Tuesday, by unanimous vote, approved Selectman Ira Wood’s motion to spend no more money on the turbine project the energy committee has been working on since 2005, to thank the committee for all its work and to ask it to look into other “forward-looking technologies.”

To date, about $30,000 of the $290,000 that town meeting voted to appropriate for studies on the wind project has been spent. Paul Sieloff, town administrator said another $16,000 was ready to be spent on a study within days, but with this vote, the selectmen could now think of directing that money to other energy conservation work in town buildings.

More than 115 people filled the room. They perched on windowsills, sat on the floor and stood in the entryway, trying to hear the selectmen speak.

Some had held out hope that the turbine would bring a steady source of revenue to the town. But this was not the time to proceed with that dream, said Selectman Jacqui Wildes-Beebe.

“It seems like a lot of risk for too little gain,” she said. “I have to ask myself, are we taking a calculated risk with taxpayers’ money or are we beginning to gamble with it.”

Wood said his research has led him to conclude that “wind turbines are massive, low-energy producing, and environmentally destructive. I believe they are based on dubious economics that at best are ill-suited to a small town like Wellfleet.” He added that he did not think the site was suitable either.

Dale Donovan, selectmen chair, said the energy committee provided them with a luxury most towns can’t afford, their own research and development department. He appreciated all the information they provided the board, “but I think we are at the point of making a decision. I’ll support the motion, despite all the hard work the committee has done.”

“We don’t know for sure what our return will be” if they proceed with the project, he said. “At the risk of seeming crass, that’s always been my principal concern. When I hear the return will be guaranteed unless the state Legislature changes the law, it frightens me,” he said. “I think with all these things in mind, particularly in the volatile political, economic and technological times that we live in, we’ve taken this as far as we can go without spending any more money.”

The room erupted in applause and cheers when the selectmen cast their votes.

For more on this story, pick up this week’s Provincetown Banner or The Cape Codder.