The Falmouth Wind Turbine Options Analysis group at its meeting on Tuesday took its first look at a site in Falmouth where the two town-owned wind turbines could be moved.
Falmouth Geographic Information Systems coordinator Robert Shea showed the location on a map with a half-mile radius circle around it. The location is north of Route 151 on town-owned land more than a half-mile away from the nearest homes on Cloverfield Way, about a half-mile south of an existing industrial-sized wind turbine on the Massachusetts Military Reservation, and more than a half-mile east of Route 28. To the west is the Frances A. Crane Wildlife Management area. The only homes within the circle are housing on the Massachusetts Military Reservation, but those homes are even closer to the existing wind turbine on the base. “If there was a place to move it, this would probably be the place,” Mr. Shea said. The land is very narrow, just 50 feet wide, but seven acres in total. Directly to the south is another 20 acres of land, but the owner of that land is unknown, he said. The town could take that land by eminent domain as part of moving the turbines, he said. The land is not in the flight path of the military reservation, he said. The site is also in a good wind resource area, and might be accessible from the existing roads on the base, said town assessor David Bailey. Additional roads and easements would be required to pass through land on either side of the properties owned by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.
Moving both wind turbines is estimated to cost $4.48 million, according to a report by engineers Weston & Sampson completed last year. The group has not yet considered costs of such a move.
Todd A. Drummey of Blacksmith Shop Road said he has talked to military personnel and there have been no complaints from the residents of base housing about the turbines.
Kathryn L. Elder of Blacksmith Shop Road said the people living in base housing are living there for free and can be transferred elsewhere if they are unhappy. She also pointed out that only one turbine was pictured on the map. Mr. Shea said he believed both turbines could be located on the town-owned property without infringing on neighbors. “This is kind of the best case scenario,” said Mr. Bailey, because it is on town-owned land at a high elevation with good wind resources.
But whether the turbines could actually be moved is still unknown. In addition to the costs, there could be complications from NStar and zoning issues, he said. The land is zoned agricultural, Mr. Shea said, unlike the wastewater treatment plant, which is on land zoned for public use. There is also currently a moratorium on building wind turbines in the Town of Falmouth, Mr. Shea said, and future restrictions on wind turbine construction could come into play if the turbines are moved.
The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, which is paying for the Falmouth Wind Turbine Options Analysis Process, will investigate whether that is a viable site for the turbines. The potential site Mr. Shea showed is only place in Falmouth where the turbines could be re- located that is both in a wind resource area and far enough away from residences to make it at least feasible.
The two 262-foot-tall, 1.65-megawatt Vestas wind turbines at the wastewater treatment plant on Blacksmith Shop Road are about a quarter-mile from residences. Moving the wind turbines would void the warranties and service agreements, said waste-water superintendent Gerald C. Potamis. “The warranty voids if we touch, move, or disassemble the turbines,” he said. But the warranties are for three years and will expire soon regardless of whether the town moves the turbines. Electrical connection costs can range from $60,000 to $500,000, Mr. Potamis said.
Group member Judith Fenwick said if the town is considering moving the turbines, they should get a second opinion about the costs.
At the next meeting on Wednesday, the group will hear from Falmouth Board of Health Chairman Gail A. Harkness. Dr. Harkness is an epidemiologist and will discuss the health complaints of residents who live near the large wind turbines in Falmouth.
Diane C. Funfar, an adversely affected neighbor, said some residents with health complaints did not come forward because they did not want to be identified in public. The group is considering creating an anonymous survey of residents to see how they have been affected by the turbines. Mr. Drummey said there have been numerous studies where researchers have tried to identify the health effects, but most are inconclusive.
Group member Jeffrey W. Oppenheim said he would like to see an abstract of all the contracts and legal opinions about whether suing the engineers and contractors who put up the turbines is viable.
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