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Moving toward consensus on turbines  

Credit:  By CHRISTOPHER KAZARIAN, Falmouth Enterprise, December 20, 2011 ~~

Earlier this year Falmouth hired a consultant to determine if the town could reach consensus with residents on how to deal with the problems of the town-owned wind turbines at the Wastewater Treatment Facility. That consultant, Edith M. Netter of Waltham, concluded that, despite the acrimony over the turbines, a consensus was achievable.

Last night selectmen moved forward with that approach by accepting advice from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, which is recommending four firms to facilitate that next step. Those firms, which the state agency selected after issuing a Request for Qualifications, are CLF Ventures of Boston; the Consensus Building Institute of Cambridge; the Meister Consulting Group of Boston; and Raab Associates of Boston.

The Clean Energy Center has provided a review of the firms to selectmen, noting which were best suited for facilitating the process of building consensus on how to deal with the town’s two wind turbines. Selectmen will not make a decision on those firms until their next meeting on Monday, January 9.

Chairman of the Falmouth Board of Selectmen Mary (Pat) Flynn asked for public input on the four finalists to help in choosing the one that will be responsible for facilitating the process of how to select the mitigation option most suitable for the town. The options before selectmen are: to decommission the two turbines; to relocate the turbines elsewhere in town; to make specific changes to the operation of the turbines; or to mitigate the homes impacted by the machines. Weston & Sampson has concluded its analysis of these options, and that report will be posted on the town’s website, under the selectmen’s section, later today.

Residents can also find information related to the four firms the Clean Energy Center is recommending for facilitation here, as well. Nancy A. Hayward of Chase Road, West Falmouth, later asked that a copy of the report also be made available to residents in the Falmouth Public Library’s reference department. The board agreed to her request.

In the Weston & Sampson report the cost for decommissioning the turbines and taking them down is estimated to be $700,000, with on-site storage adding $30,000 to that figure. The monthly maintenance fee for the turbines would be $4,500 a month.

The town could, under the proposal, possibly realize as much as $600,000 for the two turbines, if it were to resell them. If a buyer cannot be found, salvage value of the machines would provide the town with much less revenue, an estimated $102,000.

In addition, Weston & Sampson predicted the town would be responsible for repaying the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust the roughly $1 million it received in Renewable Energy Credits for the energy produced by the turbines from 2015 to 2029.

Falmouth would have to cover its debt obligations for the pur- chase of the wind turbines. In the report the town would pay $6.88 million in debt for Wind 1. With relocation Weston & Sampson has estimated the town would require an additional $4.48 million investment. Of that amount roughly $1.5 million would go toward decommissioning of the turbines as well as permitting and site preparation. The remaining money would be needed to cover actual construction costs.

If the town elects to keep the turbines in their current location, it could elect to modify a handful of abutters’ homes. Weston & Sampson mentioned nine homes—four on Blacksmith Shop Road, four on Ambleside Drive and West Falmouth Highway—that were closest to Wind 1 and Wind 2 as ones that should be strongly considered, based upon inspection last month by Harris Miller Miller and Hanson. With proper sound insulation and, in six cases, installation of central air-conditioning, the town would pay roughly $360,000 to modify those nine homes. To extend that strategy to the 25 closest homes would cost Falmouth roughly $1 million.

Another option could be noise barriers, although Weston & Sampson noted that these are not only rare, but also expensive and would require the removal of a number of trees in the area.

As an example of the significant cost of the noise barriers Weston & Sampson estimated that to construct a 41-foot high one to protect the four closest homes to Wind 1 would cost anywhere between $1 million and $2 million. Some of the modifications to the turbine include making operational changes to limit shadow flicker, which is estimated to cost $15,000 per turbine.

Once a facilitator is selected by the board, Ms. Flynn said the neutral consultant would meet with groups of 20 to 40 citizens in confidential interviews or focus groups during the month of January. The purpose of those meetings, Ms. Flynn said, will be to clarify community views on the proposed options in the Weston & Sampson report.

And it would help determine what process, if any, would work to bring people together to discuss mitigation strategies for the wind turbine. If such a process is feasible, selectmen would be apprised of that in the beginning of February by whatever firm is selected to facilitate the consensus-building approach. Over the next two months the board would then work with the public before making a recommendation to Town Meeting in April about how to proceed with the town-owned wind turbines.

Source:  By CHRISTOPHER KAZARIAN, Falmouth Enterprise, December 20, 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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