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Official: Turbine shutdown could cost Falmouth $173,000  

Credit:  By Aaron Gouveia, Cape Cod Times, www.capecodonline.com 8 March 2011 ~~

FALMOUTH – Shutting off the town-owned wind turbine during periods of high winds will cost Falmouth $173,000 in annual revenue, said Gerald Potamis, wastewater superintendent.

Last week, selectmen unanimously voted to shut down the municipal 1.65-megawatt turbine, known as Wind I, when wind speeds hit 23 mph. The board discussed the issue after approximately a dozen residents who live near the turbine complained about adverse health effects due to noise, vibrations and shadow flicker.

But none of the selectmen asked how much of the $440,000 in Wind I’s annual revenue will be lost as a result of the partial shutdown.

Potamis would not go into detail regarding how he arrived at the $173,000 figure, but said the decision to sporadically turn off the turbine translates into a 39 percent annual loss of revenue.

While opponents of Wind I scored a victory last week, selectmen received multiple complaints from residents who questioned whether the board violated the state’s Open Meeting Law by voting on an item that was not on the agenda, according to Acting Town Manager Heather Harper.

Harper, acting on an opinion from Frank Duffy, the town’s attorney, advised selectmen last week not to discuss or vote on the turbine.

But Brent Putnam, chairman of selectmen, said he believes the board acted appropriately.

Speaking before Monday’s meeting, Putnam said the Open Meeting Law calls for agendas to include issues the board “reasonably expects to discuss.” He said selectmen received a letter from neighbors asking to be on the agenda, but it was received only a few hours before the meeting.

Furthermore, Putnam argued the neighbors’ complaints about turbine noise and bad health “could constitute an emergency.”

To ensure transparency, Putnam put the item back on the agenda Monday. However, no one asked to speak about it at the meeting so selectmen unanimously approved the shutdown for a second time with no discussion.

Source:  By Aaron Gouveia, Cape Cod Times, www.capecodonline.com 8 March 2011

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