Visually, the final step to having the town’s second wind turbine completed-installing the blades on the machine-is a day or two away depending on the weather.
But it will be several weeks before the turbine, located at the Wastewater Treatment Facility on Blacksmith Shop Road, is operational. Ideally, Acting Town Manager Heather B. Harper said, she would like the blades to begin spinning in mid-February or early March.
That schedule is dependent on NStar reviewing and approving the plan to connect the machine to the grid.
Stephen Wiehe of Weston & Sampson, the project manager, said the NStar review will cause the most significant delay to the project although the application for the connection was filed last March. “This has been in the process of being reviewed for at least nine months,” he said.
NStar has since conducted studies related to the connection of the turbine to the grid, he said, in order to determine the exact protocols that would occur should the circuit not be able to handle the power generated by the two turbines at the treatment facility as well as the one at Falmouth Technology Park, owned by Notus Clean Energy, and the fourth at the Massachusetts Military Reservation.
Under light load conditions when not many residents are using electricity, and there is high wind powering all three turbines, Mr. Wiehe said, the grid could be unstable. Typically, he said, that happens about two to three times a year.
“NStar wants the ability to turn the turbines off under light load conditions,” he said. “The town has no choice in the matter. The utility dictates what goes on the grid and how it is operated.”
Outside of the issues with NStar, Mr. Wiehe said the construction of the turbine has been relatively seamless. “I was managing the first one and this seems about the same,” he said. lilt has been relatively challenge-free.”
While residents may only have seen progress over the last two months since the turbine was delivered, Mr. Wiehe said the project has been ongoing for a long time. “There has been a lot of work done in the ground before anything popped up over the horizon,” he said. “The foundation is not recent and we installed the electrical duct bank some time ago.”
In the last two weeks a crane has assembled the tower and placed the 100-ton nacelle, which has the word “Falmouth” emblazoned on it, last week. The tower is roughly 270 feet high and the blades will increase that to 400 feet.
The l.65-megawatt turbine is the same size and created by the same manufacturer, Vestas, as the one erected in November 2009. That first turbine became operational in March of last year.
The second turbine, situated about 1,500 feet from the first one, was funded with a $5.8 million grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection oversaw the dispersal of those funds through its state revolving fund for water pollution abatement projects.
The DEP selected Lumus Construction of Wilmington to conduct the work of erecting the turbine.
Ms. Harper said once the interconnection issues with NStar are resolved, Falmouth still has to do a full commissioning of the turbine before it starts generating power. She anticipated there will be a ceremony, similar to the one held last January, at which state and federal officials will be recognized for their contributions to the project.
While she has been involved in the project, she has handed over much of the work to Wastewater Superintendent Gerald C. Potamis who has been working closely with DEP officials and Mr. Wiehe while the turbine is under construction.
Mr. Potamis echoed the statements of Mr. Wiehe, that the project has proceeded on schedule. Overall, he viewed it as a beneficial project, one that will produce roughly $300,000 in revenue to the town.
Together the town’s two turbines are expected to generate the equivalent of 60 percent of the town’s municipal consumption. “I think it is good for the town in terms of the finances and meeting green energy goals,” he said, although he added that “I am sensitive to the neighbor’s complaints.”
Those complaints started in May, coming from several abutters in the area who are upset about the noise the turbine has created as well as the potential health impacts and possible decrease in their property values caused by the machine.
It led to the town conducting a noise study of the two turbines. Falmouth’s consultant Harris Miller, Miller & Hanson (HMMH) of Burlington reported in September that the excess noise created by the two turbines would be within the state’s guidelines for all homes except two where there could be a possible violation.
Several residents have called for the town to halt construction of the wind turbine although that has not happened. Some of those residents have appealed the building commissioner’s decision that the current wind turbine did not need a special permit because it is a municipal project. That appeal is currently before the Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals.
The appeals board will also hear a complaint from 30 residents concerned about the noise being generated by the Notus Clean Energy wind turbine at the technology park.
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