In a few short months Plymouth residents will awaken to a new era, an era of industrial wind turbines that has been brewing for years but is just coming to fruition. By the time this is published, a 400-foot turbine should be looming over Kingston near Sullivan Auto, the mall and the train station. Get an eyeful and then brace yourself; there are at least 10 turbines approved, proposed or planned within the town of Plymouth, some of them 25 percent taller. And it seems we’re just getting started.
A gold rush is underway. Generous government subsidies and easy loans are available to anyone able to create a proposal and meet the local Wind Energy Bylaw. The quick money is made by those who provide engineering services, manage the proposal, manage the construction and sell the equipment. After construction, the turbine (not so) quietly generates a modest amount of electricity, earning those who purchase the resulting energy credits a small discount on their electric bill.
How many turbines can Plymouth expect? Who knows. The current bylaw and system of government allows for anyone to propose a tower anywhere. The town must entertain every proposal, and to be approved, the proposal must simply meet the bylaw, a vague, porous document that was co-written by wind energy professionals who have recently proposed sites in Plymouth.
For a wind turbine proposal in Cedarville, the company that will supply the turbine has the same ownership as the company proposing the project, and the same ownership as the company that will provide many of the installation services. Most of the funding will come from government subsidies and bank loans. How do you set a price for equipment and services when you’re selling them and buying them from yourself, but someone else is picking up the tab? I’m willing to be as green as the next guy, but let’s pay attention to the right kind of green.
The very flawed bylaw is being re-written by an Energy Subcommittee chaired by Rose Forbes, an engineer notable for managing the proposal and construction of most of the large wind towers on Cape Cod. The new bylaw draft includes language that will allow a 300-foot tall wind turbine just 900-feet from residences anywhere in Plymouth, regardless of adverse effects on health and tranquility. There is no limit to a turbine’s size or height. Forbes also plans on eliminating the current requirement for a wind turbine to be reasonably efficient, a calculation known as a capacity factor. So much for green.
It’s clear that conflicts of interests abound. It’s also clear that the town’s current (and the proposed softened) bylaw could result in no end to wind turbine proposals, especially if the government subsidies keep flowing. Has anyone at Town Hall thought about the end game? Maybe just enough wind power to replace Pilgrim Nuclear Plant? Unfortunately, that would require more than 3,000 wind turbines similar to the one proposed in Cedarville, each standing over 300-feet – almost as tall as the four WPLM radio antennas.
Contact your town meeting member, selectmen, the Planning Board, and the Zoning Board. Ask them if they’ve thought about how many industrial wind turbines they will allow in Plymouth, and let them know what you think. And keep your eye out for a wind turbine, coming soon, to a neighborhood near you.
– Kerry Kearney, Plymouth
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