There’s no such thing as neutrality when it comes to wind energy in the town of Falmouth. That’s what Dave McGlinchey of the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences discovered when he attempted to give a “non-advocacy” talk on the benefits and drawbacks of wind energy to West Falmouth residents Tuesday night.
“This is just a general look at windpower and how it interacts with local communities,” said McGlinchey – the senior project manager for energy and the environment at Manomet – at the outset of his talk, which was sponsored by the West Falmouth Village Association.
But McGlinchey had only made it halfway through his presentation when one West Falmouth resident loudly interrupted him.
“That’s hilarious,” Annie Hart Cool retorted, upon hearing McGlinchey state that no statistically significant relationship had ever been found between wind power development and nearby property values.
Cool added that she was a realtor, and had first-hand experience seeing property values – including her own – decrease in the area of Blacksmith Shop Road, where the town’s 1.65 megawatt wind turbine operates at the Wastewater Treatment Facility.
However, McGlinchey held firm, saying that to date, property value studies have produced varied results and have been criticized for small data sets.
Overall, McGlinchey’s talk was a balanced one, illustrating both the benefits of windpower, which include increased tax revenue for the town, community ownership and a lessening of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the drawbacks, which include noise, sun flickering, and a potential hazard to birds and wildlife.
“We want to look at projects like the ones that have been done here [in Falmouth] in order to see how they can be improved and how we can avoid these impacts on people,” McGlinchey concluded.
“Well-planned wind power development can be compatible with community and environmental values,” he added, whereupon audience members’ hands flew up to respond.
In the question-and-answer session, the discussion focused mainly on the West Falmouth audience’s dissatisfaction with living near a major wind energy facility.
“It’s constant. It’s constant. It’s constant,” said resident Colin Murphy of Blacksmith Shop Road, emphasizing to McGlinchey the noise impact of the turbine on his health and well-being.
Resident Dave Moriarty added that the town of Falmouth had effectively bulldozed the project through the approval process without adequate consideration of the impact on the residents in the immediate area.
“The people who are impacted the most are the people who should have a seat at the table when these things are being decided,” Moriarty said.
“We’re getting into town politics here, which is something I can’t speak to,” McGlinchey responded.
In related news, the Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals is set to continue a hearing on January 20 involving residents who appealed the building commissioner’s decision that the turbine did not need a special permit because it is a municipal project.
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