November 27, 2010
Letters, Massachusetts

Turbines’ financial flicker

Wicked Local Plymouth, 27 November 2010

Generous state and federal funding for wind power projects has created a recent gold rush in Plymouth and in surrounding towns. Small energy companies and engineering firms are racing to the finish line, trying to secure permits before their financial incentives expire. The result? Local zoning boards are being peppered with case after case, and they’re left trying to sort out the ill-conceived neighborhood proposals from the well-planned open area projects.

There are five proposed sites in Plymouth right now; do you know where they are? Panicked citizens are waking up at the 11th hour to the realization that they may soon have one (or several) of these monstrous machines looming over their neighborhood. Lawyers and engineers are minimizing concerns about property values, turbine noise and flicker, the annoying strobe-like shadows that play over entire neighborhoods and permeate homes. A 480-foot high tower being proposed in Cedarville by Sustainable New Energy would have some residents living with flicker for an hour and a half every morning for four months of each year. These residents are being offered “mitigation,” such as room-darkening window shades. Maybe they should just enjoy their morning coffee in a dark basement.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab gives the Cedarville area and most of Plymouth a wind energy rating of 1 or 2 on a scale of 1 to 7. A rating of 1 is “poor,” and a rating of 2 is “marginal.” There are a few small areas such as high up in the Pine Hills that earn a 3 (fair), but you don’t see good, excellent, outstanding or superb ratings until you move onto the Cape or offshore. You have to ask, why would a smart businessman invest his hard-earned money on wind tower sites that receive such low ratings? Simple, because it’s not his money, it’s our money, the taxpayers’.

And what about the prize? It surprises most people to learn that we would need more than 1,300 two-Megawatt wind turbines, operating at an expected 25 percent capacity factor to equal one Pilgrim power plant. Plymouth was on the forefront of alternative energy 40 years ago, with its residents conceding to a nuclear plant that has been providing power to almost 600,000 homes since 1972. I think we’ve paid our dues.

Is there a wind turbine coming soon to a neighborhood near you? If town planning doesn’t develop good zoning policy, protecting residents from greedy developers in green sheep’s clothing, then probably. How about morning coffee at my house? I don’t get an hour of flicker until after 5 p.m.

Kerry Kearney


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