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New optimism as turbine neighbors join group to consider options  

Credit:  By BRENT RUNYON Falmouth Enterprise June 22, 2012 | via Firetower Wind ~~

The adversely impacted neighbors of the town-owned wind turbines participated in the Falmouth Wind Turbine Options Analysis Process for the first time on Tuesday, after boycotting the first three meetings. At the beginning of the meeting, neighbor Todd A. Drummey read a statement describing how it came about that the neighbors decided to join the group. It was prompted by a meeting last week with Selectmen Chairman Kevin E. Murphy and Town Manager Julian M. Suso. Mr. Drummey said the neighbors were assured that all the options were on the table to solve the problems created by the two 262-foot-high 1.65-megawatt Vestas turbines at the West Falmouth Wastewater Treatment Facility about a quarter-mile from residents. They were also told that selectmen would make every effort to conclude the process by September 1, so that warrant articles could be drafted for November Town Meeting, and possibly a special election to conclude the turbine options process.

“We felt we could not sit at the table if all options were not on the table,” Mr. Drummey said. “Knowing that there was an end date to this terrible ordeal also relieved some concerns.” When neighbors met last Wednesday, some were still adamant that the wind turbines should be turned off to prevent further harm before the neighbors would sit down, Mr. Drummey said. “Consensus was difficult to achieve, but we agreed that we can now see this process as having the potential to provide an acceptable solution; one that does not compromise our basic rights to property, health and quality of life,” he said. “We’ve come because it is in the best interest of all involved to find a resolution to this issue without resorting to the courts.”

Mr. Drummey said his mind was not made up about joining the process until he watched a portion of the meeting on Falmouth Community Television last week and he watched members of the group struggle to represent the neighbors’ viewpoints. “We cannot ask them to shoulder our role any longer,” he said. “To be fair to them, and to all concerned, we have to represent ourselves.”

Four adversely impacted neighbors are now part of the wind turbine options group. Mr. Drummey, along with Alden H. Cook, Kathryn L. Elder, and Diane C. Funfar, will represent the neighbors, with J. Malcolm Donald as an alternate. Mr. Cook did not attend, so Mr. Donald took his seat. Facilitator Stacie N. Smith of the Consensus Building Institute in Cambridge said the options group has a much greater likelihood of solving the problems associated with the wind turbines now that all the different stakeholder groups are represented.

With the full group together for the first time, members brain- stormed on possible options. Neighbors have complained that the wind turbines affect their health, lower their property values and decrease their quality of life. Town officials and other residents have said that the wind turbines are a significant investment, create revenue for the town and reduce greenhouse gases as part of the Falmouth climate action plan.

Ms. Smith presented the group with the basic categories of options including dismantling or moving the turbines, curtailing the turbines at various times or wind speeds, making mechanical changes to the turbines, or financially compensating the neighbors for the inconvenience. Each option has various sub-options that can be explored further, Ms. Smith pointed out, and various options can also be combined. “We’re really trying to piece things together to make things work,” she said. Mr. Donald suggested a different avenue. The town could sue the turbine manufacturer and contractors for providing misleading information about the turbines, he said. “Make them pay for it,” Mr. Donald said. Group member Judith Fenwick said the group should also consider running the turbines at the manufacturer’s specifications, the so-called “do nothing” option. Ms. Smith asked if any of the options could immediately be eliminated. “It would not bother me in the least to cross off the ‘do nothing’ option,” Mr. Drummey said.

ing to the manufacturer’s specifications would have to be done in combination with other options, Ms. Smith said, such as purchasing the neighbors’ properties and reselling them to other people less sensitive to the wind turbines. One option that should not be considered, the group decided, was to build a large sound barrier around the homes, which would function like acoustical walls alongside major highways. Engineers looked at that option and concluded it would be too expensive and an ineffective solution, Ms. Smith said.

But group member Joseph A. Hackler said there may be some options related to sound barriers that could be effective. In some cases, building a seven-foot-high berm near someone’s house could eliminate certain noises. The group then delved deep into the details of what it would take to move the wind turbines off the current site, either to another location in Falmouth, to the Massachusetts Military Reservation or another town.

“Are there locations in Falmouth that have a wind resource and have the potential distance clearances?” asked group member Anastasia K. Karplus. Group member David A. Bailey, director of assessing for the Town of Falmouth, said he would need some basic parameters to determine if other locations in Falmouth are viable.

Selectman Mary (Pat) Flynn said moving the turbines to the Massachusetts Military Reservation is extremely complicated because various portions of the base are controlled by different portions of the state and federal governments. The group agreed to explore this option further to see if it is feasible. “Is an off-shore location off the table?” asked Ms. Elder. Nils Bolgen, a liaison from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, said land-based turbines are generally constructed of different materials than water-based turbines, so moving the Falmouth turbines off-shore is unlikely. Moving the turbines to an other military base was another question. Group member Kathy Driscoll did not believe the town would ask the federal government to accept the turbines, but others disagreed. Moving the turbines raised questions about the intricacies of the laws related to electric- ity production and current siting regulations for wind turbines.

From this discussion, Ms. Smith, and her colleague Carri Hulet, will compile a list of questions about moving the wind turbines that will be addressed at the next meeting.

Mr. Hackler asked if the group intended to spend a lot of time examining options that are unrealistic and extremely expensive. Ms. Smith said the group has to go through the work of examining all of the options to determine what will work to solve as many problems as possible. “We’re not going to take the options off the table,” she said.

The Consensus Building In- stitute has created a web page for the Falmouth Wind Turbine Options Analysis Process. The website is www.cbuilding.org/fal-mouthwind and includes links to documents that group will review along with links to video of the meetings.

The next meeting of the wind turbine options analysis group is Wednesday, June 27, at the Gus Canty Community Center at 6:30 PM. At that meeting, group mem- bers will examine options related to mechanical changes to the wind turbines, including altering or replacing the turbine blades so they make less noise.

Source:  By BRENT RUNYON Falmouth Enterprise June 22, 2012 | via Firetower Wind

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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