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Town seeks public feedback on turbine options

The Board of Selectmen announced the completion of a report detailing possible “mitigation strategies” for Falmouth’s controversial wind turbines on Monday. The analysis, commissioned to address complaints of physical and mental distress by neighbors of the turbines, details four possible strategies, and the estimated costs associated with each.

Also released Monday was a memo from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center recommending four candidate firms for the town’s planned consensus-building program.

Chairman Mary Pat Flynn said the board would be accepting public feedback on the documents, currently posted on the town’s Web site, until Jan. 4. The board expects to move forward with the consensus-building program by selecting one of the four firms—CLF Ventures, Meister Consulting Group, Raab Associates, all of Boston, and Consensus Building Institute, of Cambridge—on Jan. 9. The chosen firm would then begin interviewing residents and town officials to determine if a cooperative, consensus-building strategy would be feasible.

Meanwhile, the mitigation study provides a firmer set of figures for the four possible fates of the turbines, options ranging from further curtailment of their operation to total dismantling and abandonment.

According to Weston and Sampson, the firm that produced the report, the cost to dismantle and store the two turbines would be around $730,000, plus $4,500 per month for routine maintenance required to ensure their future operation. If the town chose to sell the used turbines, and if a buyer could be found, the report estimates resale value to be around $600,000. If no buyer could be found, the turbines would likely yield around $100,000 in scrap.

If the town chose to relocate the turbines to an area farther from residents, the total cost of transportation, testing, reassembly, and all associated infrastructure, including new foundations and electrical systems, would be on the order of $4.5 million, comparable to the original investment made for each turbine.

Whatever its decision, Falmouth will still have to repay the debt associated with that initial investment. The bonds secured to pay for the turbines are scheduled to be repaid over the course of the next 20 years, through energy savings generated by the turbines themselves. Without those savings, or with reduced energy generation due to curtailment, the town would have to find another way to repay hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.

Another option, which would allow the turbines to operate at their current locations, would be to provide sound insulation to nearby homes, as well as central air conditioning so that residents could close their windows whenever turbine noise was a concern. However, it is unclear whether residents would endorse such a measure, which would have no impact on low-frequency vibrations, which many believe to be responsible for headaches and other health concerns.

Flynn urged residents to read the report, and weigh in with any comments or concerns. Wind 1 is currently offline until at least the spring Town Meeting, and the newer Wind 2 has yet to begin operation.