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Turbine questions loom in Falmouth

FALMOUTH – Falmouth resident Neil Andersen sees only one suitable solution to mitigate quality-of- life issues posed by a nearby wind turbine.

“There’s no question about it,” Andersen said in a phone interview. “Take it down, decommission it.”

Despite a new report by a town consultant that estimates dismantling Wind I would cost the town more than $1 million, Andersen, who lives about 1,300 feet from the 1.65-megawatt turbine, believes the benefits to decommissioning it outweigh the cost.

The mitigation report, which selectmen received at the end of July, estimates the costs associated with studying several possible options to solve problems abutters say have been caused by Wind 1. Noise, low-frequency sound waves, and other effects from the turbines cause headaches, dizziness, and vertigo among other health problems, nearby residents have said.

Weston & Sampson, the environmental and infrastructure consulting firm that did the report, studied the costs of exploring options such as curtailing operations; removal or relocation of Wind 1 and Wind 2 (which officials expect will start spinning in October); altering impacted properties; and limiting turbine operation.

Without any curtailment, Wind 1 and Wind 2 would generate more than $975,000 per year in revenue, according to the study. The move, however, would ignore long-standing complaints from abutting residents.

Decommissioning the turbines, would likely require Falmouth to repay at least $1 million to the Renewable Energy Trust which already paid the town for future renewable energy certificates. Studies estimating costs for turbine removal, resale, and salvage options would cost Falmouth up to $5,000, the report found.

While the feasibility of moving the turbines to a different part of town are questionable, exploring that option would cost up to $7,000, according to the report.

A six- to eight-week study of suitable property alterations for abutters would cost as much as $9,000, the report said.

Wind 1 has been running on a restricted basis since selectmen passed a measure in March to shut down the turbine whenever winds reach 23 mph. The report mentions the possibility of increasing that wind speed. A study on the option would cost up to $6,000.

Looking into possible modifications to combat concerns such as flickering lights and ice thrown from the blades in the winter would also cost as much as $6,000, according to the report.

In addition to the mitigation studies, the state Department of Environmental Protection ruled Falmouth must measure noise from Wind 1 in several different wind conditions. Harris Miller Miller & Hanson Inc., the town’s noise and vibration consultant, estimated the cost for the firm to conduct the measurements to be $14,000 to $20,000, according to a report from the firm.

The cost of the required DEP study will likely influence the amount spent on further study into mitigation options, said Mary Pat Flynn, chairwoman of the board of selectmen. The board has not yet discussed the matter because selectmen are busy with interviews for a new town manager, she said. They have not yet set a date to discuss the mitigation report, Flynn said.

Any decisions on mitigations studies will likely come to a town meeting vote, said Selectman Brent Putnam. In a phone interview, Putnam said he hoped cost would not stand in the way of fact-finding.

“Quite frankly I think all of the options need to be explored,” Putnam said. “In my mind it’s not a large price tag when we’re talking about the well-being of our neighbors.”