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Wind 2 turbine to have its turn

FALMOUTH – A town-owned wind turbine that sat idle for almost a year could start spinning in the next couple of weeks.

In a compromise worked out last month, selectmen agreed to temporarily start the turbine, known as Wind 2, and shut down another municipal turbine that’s been the focus of complaints from neighbors.

Wind 1, the other 1.65-megawatt turbine at the town’s wastewater treatment facility, stopped operating following the announcement of the deal at November’s town meeting.

Gerald Potamis, the town’s wastewater superintendent, estimates that if either turbine were operational, the town would save $400,000 in electricity costs annually. Shutting down Wind 1 for the last month and keeping Wind 2 offline has cost the town about $33,000, he said.

Town meeting members approved spending $98,000 to cover the cost of electricity that Wind 1 would have generated.

The Wind 2 turbine, which was originally scheduled to begin operation late last spring, is scheduled to undergo testing on Dec. 15, said Stephen Wiehe, project manager for the town’s consultants, Weston & Sampson Engineers Inc.

If successful, the turbine could begin spinning immediately, Wiehe said. But NStar officials, who must be present and witness the Wind 2 testing, have not yet confirmed if they will be there, Wiehe said. If NStar officials cannot attend, the test will be rescheduled.

NStar required the town to install equipment that allows the utility to shut the turbine off remotely, Wiehe said.

“They want to see (the equipment) operate,” Wiehe said of NStar officials.

The turbine shares a grid with three other similarly-sized turbines. After conducting an analysis of the project, NStar ordered Falmouth to add the remote terminal unit so the power company can shut the turbine down if an influx of electricity overloads the power grid.

After months of delays, Potamis hopes plans to start the turbine will remain on schedule.

“I’m hoping by the end of December, we’ll have it up and running,” he said.

Wind 2, once operational, will spin for 30 days with no curtailment. After that, it will continue to spin for 30 more days, but will shutdown whenever winds reach 23 mph or more.

During those 60 days, town officials plan to log complaints from nearby residents, who can email their concerns to falmouthwind@gmail.com.

Once the analysis is complete, both turbines will remain shut down until Falmouth’s town meeting in April. Wind 1 will go online occasionally so that experts hired by the state Department of Environmental Protection can study the turbine’s possible effects on humans.

Months of grievances aired by Wind 1 abutters, who complained the turbine causes negative health effects, such as migraines and vertigo, led to the selectmen’s November decision.

A nonbinding article that a Wind 1 neighbor filed on the town meeting warrant asked Falmouth to stop Wind 1 operation until “mitigation options are fully explored and the existence of injurious conditions upon nearby residents can be qualified.”

Town meeting members voted against passing the article in lieu of the deal.

Barry Funfar, who filed the article, predicts the town will receive as many or more complaints from Wind 2 abutters as they did from Wind 1 neighbors.

“It would seem to me that would be a miracle if that wasn’t the case,” Funfar said.

Some neighbors of Wind 2 live even closer than abutters to Wind 1, he said.