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Change is in the wind

I love the foghorns. I consider the mournful moans that I hear in the distance every 30 seconds during dark and foggy nights – and days – one of the charms of coastal living. But I would not want to live close enough to a foghorn so that I had to insert earplugs and cover my head with a pillow to get a decent night’s sleep. I loved the distinctive wop-wop-wop of the old, single-engine Hueys, once the Army’s workhorse helicopter, which a few times have lifted me out of places that I was only too happy to leave.

But I would not want to listen to that wop-wop-wop in the back yard from dawn ’til dark.

Furthermore, I have heard enough car alarms and the annoying, but practical, beep-beep-beep of trucks and buses being backed up to understand why people who live near the town’s two towering wind turbines by our wastewater treatment plant are raising such a ruckus. The whump-whump-whump caused by blades of other giant turbines I have heard would probably drive me to the brink – or to drink – if I had to live with it.

Let’s face it. Sound can be pleasing or painful. “Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast, to soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak,” wrote English playwright William Congreve in 1697. Gangsta rap can stir up the savage beast.

So I was glad to read Enterprise reporter Christopher Kazarian’s Page 1 story a couple of Fridays ago about how our town’s officials are trying to resolve the issue of the wind turbines by meeting halfway the people who claim to be afflicted by the pulsing beat.

The compromise to immediately shut down Wind 1 and to study the effects of Wind 2 on the “abutters,” the people who live near the treatment plant, for a month after it begins to spin makes sense. So does the decision to operate Wind 1 only for the purpose of conducting studies until Town Meeting time next April. It is reassuring to know that town leaders do indeed listen when someone like Barry Funfar, an outspoken critic of the machines, stands up to be counted.

I don’t begin to know the best way to deal with the impact that privately owned turbines have on the public, but something tells me that issue will also eventually be addressed. I’m optimistic enough to believe a couple of things.

1) There is a solution to this situation. People a lot smarter than I am will find ways for us to live with and benefit from wind turbines just as they have found ways for us to live with and benefit from planes, trains and automobiles – not to mention the controversial nuclear power plants.

There will probably be more rules and guidelines here in Falmouth than the policy that will prohibit Wind 2 from operating when the wind blows harder than 23 miles an hour. Hours of operation so the turbines don’t spin all night, their proximity to residential areas, even the size of the blades immediately come to mind as potential areas of regulation.

2) These wind turbines are here to stay. Why? Because I believe a lot of people like the idea. I certainly do. Anything that diminishes our dependency on fossil fuels in general and on foreign oil in particular has my vote any day. I’m in favor of any form of practical, and hopefully cheaper, alternate energy – wind, tidal, and solar – that would enable us to employ our natural resources to power our homes, our schools, and our places of work and worship, and to stop screwing up our environment.

The fact that Cape Wind and Falmouth’s wind turbines have created so much controversy is a good thing because, in many cases, controversy leads to compromise sooner or later. The problems get ironed out, and most everyone is either happy with the end results or learns to live with them.

Changes like this rarely come easy, but they eventually come. Call me a dreamer, but I believe that a hundred years from now, wind power will be so common on the Cape and throughout this land that our great-grand-children who read or hear about the growing pains we are now experiencing with the new turbines will wonder what all of the noise was about.