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Clean Energy Center, state will help study turbine options  

Credit:  By CHRISTOPHER KAZARIAN, Falmouth Enterprise August 30, 2011 ~~

As town officials further investigate the array of options on how to resolve the conflict between the wind turbines at the Wastewater Treatment Facility and those living in proximity to the machines, it will receive assistance from the state in its efforts.

Earlier this month Chairman of the Falmouth Board of Selectmen Mary (Pat) Flynn reached out to both the Department of Environmental Protection as well as the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center seeking their guidance as the town moves forward with a plan for its wind turbines.

That plan could range from doing nothing and allowing the turbines to operate according to the manufacturer’s recommendations to dismantling the two turbines and selling them. These two options will be investigated by Weston & Sampson, along with three additional inquiries that include relocating the wind turbines in town; studying sound mitigation strategies; and assessing concerns with wind turbine flicker and ice throw.

The cost of this work, Acting Town Manager Heather B. Harper told selectmen at their meeting last night, will be anywhere from $18,000 to $27,000 and could be completed within eight weeks.

The board voted unanimously to begin these additional studies. As this analysis moves forward Ms. Harper recommended the board continue to mitigate impacts to the neighborhood by curtailing the operation of the turbine when wind speeds reach roughly 23 miles per hour.

The board agreed with the recommendation, maintaining the temporary measure it originally voted in February in response to the public backlash against the turbines and the impact abutters said the machines were having on their lives.

While several neighbors showed up at last night’s meeting, they remained quiet as selectmen listened to Ms. Harper give a brief presentation before discussing how to proceed.

The board began this process at the beginning of June when it held a public forum at the Morse Pond School, bringing in an array of state and local officials, a representative from Vestas, the turbines’ manufacturer, as well as affected residents. A similar forum was held in July at Falmouth High School, which ended when selectmen tasked Weston & Sampson with providing a scope of work detailing the cost for studying a range of options for the turbines. That scope of work was completed at the end of July, and last night selectmen had their first public discussion on which options it wanted to study.

Ms. Harper told selectmen that as Falmouth attempts to resolve its turbine dilemma both the DEP and the state’s Clean Energy Center have offered their resources to the town. In a letter sent to selectmen yesterday, the Clean Energy Center offered to provide technical services to the board specifically related to the control system for wind turbines as well as acoustic measurement, modeling and analysis.

Tied to this offer, the state agency’s consultants will visit the turbine site in Falmouth; review technical documentation and turbine analyses conducted by other parties; provide a general analysis and advice related to understanding the source and nature of the turbine’s sounds; perform original data collection as needed; and attend meetings in Falmouth and Boston. The board did not act on the offer, electing to wait until its next meeting on Monday, September 12, before taking a vote.

They were mostly favorable to the concept, although Selectman Brent V.W. Putnam pointed out that the Clean Energy Center is a quasi-public agency that serves as a support center for clean energy. He wondered if its role with renewable energy would allow it to remain objective.

Ms. Harper said all the center would contribute is its understanding of wind energy as well as its contacts in the industry that could be useful in finding a solution to the town’s problems. A major reason for the state involvement, Ms. Flynn said, is a direct result of Senate President Therese M. Murray’s (D – Plymouth) interest in helping Falmouth resolve this issue.

While last night’s vote by the board may prolong the situation for abutters, Selectman Kevin E. Murphy said such an approach is necessary for the board to make a proper decision on the matter.

“We have to go through a thoughtful process to make sure that turbines will be acceptable to this community and future communities,” he said. “We can’t just wave our hands and say it is over.” That is why, he said, it is imperative the board has all the information it can get before making recommendations to the Falmouth Finance Committee and Town Meeting, which will ultimately be the arbiter for any decision on the turbines. “We need to make sure we dot our “i”s and cross our “t”s,” he said. “We need the facts to make you happy as well as the voters and the taxpayers.”

Source:  By CHRISTOPHER KAZARIAN, Falmouth Enterprise August 30, 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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