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Bournedale turbine project dealt significant blow

The members of the Cape Cod Commission subcommittee tasked with making a recommendation to the full commission concerning the New Generation Wind proposal to place four large-scale wind turbines in Bournedale met last Wednesday. At that meeting, the subcommittee reaffirmed its determination that the wind turbine proponents failed to prove that there was a need for, or a benefit to be derived from, the controversial wind turbine proposal.

That determination caused New Generation Wind representative Diane C. Tillotson, an attorney at Boston-based Hemenway & Barnes, to call for a stop to the meeting. She said she wanted to consult with her clients between that meeting and the next given, she said, that subcommittee members were so clearly opposed to the project.

This week, however, New Generation Wind proponents said in a prepared statement that they would continue pursuing the project, hoping to convince the full commission of the correctness of their interpretation of the rules under which the project is being reviewed.

New Generation Wind is proposing to site four 492-foot wind turbines, downsized from an original seven, on about 145 acres of land in Bournedale. Those turbines would be visible from the Sagamore Bridge, Scenic Highway, and other locations at the gateway to Cape Cod.

In the statement issued this week, the project proponents said, “New Generation Wind (NGW) takes strong exception to a recent Cape Cod Commission subcommittee vote of “no economic benefit,” regarding NGW’s proposal for four wind turbines in Bourne. . . . NGW believes the subcommittee’s vote is wholly inconsistent with several stated objectives of the Commission’s Regional Policy Plan that clearly support development of renewable energy on Cape Cod.”

Gregory O’Brien of the Stony Brook Group, a spokesman for New Generation Wind, concluded the statement by saying, “It is discouraging and frustrating to engage in a Cape Cod Commission process that appears to be a public opinion poll of the most vociferous opponents, rather than a process that deals with fact and compliance with Commission regulations.”

At last week’s meeting, six members of the subcommittee continued debating the merits of that project. Since the public hearing portion of their review is over, and the record on the project is closed, the members were working through the commission’s regulations for Developments of Regional Impact, evaluating the project against the standards.

The Bournedale project was filed before the commission adopted any turbine-specific regulations, so it is being reviewed under the same rules that would apply to a proposed housing subdivision or shopping center.

Last week, the subcommittee members meeting turned to a request by New Generation to reconsider their determination as to a standard covering economic development. At their previous meeting, the subcommittee members had looked at a specific minimum performance standard set out in Barnstable County’s Regional Policy Plan that requires the subcommittee to determine whether the project was proposed “in response to existing regional demand and shall improve the availability, reliability, quality and cost of services.”

The subcommittee interpreted that standard to mean a significant amount of cash in the pockets of electric ratepayers.

Determining the cost of electricity is complex. The proponents thought they gave the subcommittee adequate information during the public hearings to demonstrate that their locally distributed project, if approved, would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and would “contribute to price suppression as wind generated electricity bids in at close to zero marginal cost,” given that there is no cost to using the wind as a “fuel source.”

The proponents said in their statement the NGW team provided extensive documentation and examples of how the energy produced by the project would ultimately reduce costs to consumers. They asserted that the displacement of fossil fuel projects could lead to more than $2.5 million in savings annually. They said there would be more than $100,000 in annual savings to local residents through a green rebate program.
Those cost savings, they said, would be in addition to the more than $110,000 annual amount of property taxes for the Town of Bourne for a four-turbine project.

Since the $2.5 million in savings would be added to the electrical grid that serves New England, even determining by what fraction of a penny that would mean to the pocket books of Cape Cod citizens was difficult.

At the meeting, Cape Cod Commission Executive Director Paul Niedzwiecki suggested to the subcommittee members that there was a wider way to define “benefit” and said that defining it narrowly for this and the several solar projects that would soon be coming before the commission would almost automatically fail to meet that economic development standard.

The subcommittee members, however, disagreed, voting to reaffirm their original determination of “no benefit.” Barnstable Commissioner Roy Richardson cast the only dissenting vote.

The reconsideration of the economic benefit standard came on the heels of a discussion of concerns arising from the presence of sites such as Sacrifice (or Chamber) Rock and Wishing Rock, both sacred to the Herring Pond Tribe.

The commission staff told subcommittee members that the state’s National Heritage program had determined that the project, whose nearest turbine would lie about 4,000 feet from the sites in question, was in compliance with its requirements.

Subcommittee members, including Bourne Commissioner Michael Blanton, wanted to know if the state agency had taken into consideration the cultural, as well as the physical, impacts of the project on the area, and asked for more information.