The Wind Turbine Options Analysis Project met for three hours Dec. 18 to prepare its final report to the Falmouth Board of Selectmen, based on a seven-month evaluation by the Wind Turbine Options Analysis Process (WTOP).
Area residents waited nearly three hours before they could offer any public comments and expressed grave concerns that the impact of the turbines on their lives is being overshadowed by the WTOP’s focus on legal and financial implications for the town, and editorial language used in the 36-page draft that is still under revision.
The residents suggested a comprehensive health survey was needed for WTOP to understand the health hazards of the turbines, and they expressed disbelief that some WTOP members would not acknowledge the negative impact of the turbines on the property values of their homes. One resident claimed she has abandoned her home due to its proximity to the turbines and the resulting health complications.
“This problem is not going to go away with testing. This is a medical issue, and not about DEP regulations or about noise. These turbines are not going to save the planet. They are hurting people,” said Sue Hobart, formerly of Blacksmith Shop Road.
Colin Murphy, a Falmouth resident who lives within 1,900 feet of the turbines, said the turbines are impacting his children, ages 6 and 8. He was disturbed by one WTOP option to limit the hours of operation for the turbines and perhaps shut them down at 11 pm, to reduce any potential for sleep deprivation for those living near them.
“I don’t want to have to wait until 11 pm to put my children to sleep. I don’t want to send them to school with an hour of sleep. … I don’t think my two children should have to suffer so the town can make a buck,” Murphy said.
Annie and Mark Cool, who live within 1/3 mile of Turbine 1, called the WTOP a “waste of time” that continues to spin its wheels in endless discussions while they and their neighbors suffer detrimental impacts of the turbines.
For the past 2.5 years, the turbines have been a source of dissention among Falmouth residents and public officials, with those living near the turbines claiming serious sleep disturbances and adverse health effects, and property owners claiming the values of their homes is depreciating. Meanwhile, town officials continue to weigh these concerns with the economic and environmental issues involved with the turbines.
WTOP has met 23 times since May to explore options for the long-term future of Falmouth’s two wind turbines, Wind 1 and Wind 2. WTOP stakeholder representatives include both town officials and area residents who experienced adverse impacts of the turbines. Additionally, two members of the town’s Board of Selectmen and one representative from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Department (MassCED) attended but did not actively participate in the discussions.
Only WTOP representatives were provided with copies of their drafted report, but The Bulletin was able to obtain a copy from an anonymous source. Among the findings in the WTOP’s draft:
◦ Fiscal and climate stakeholders felt that home owners should assume the “low cost” of home insulation as a valuable option for reducing the noise levels of the turbines.
◦ Participants repeatedly expressed a desire to better understand the range of health concerns, the prevalence of those concerns, and the correlation between those concerns and location from the turbines. They explored the idea of finding an outside expert to help conduct a health survey.
◦ MassCED found the town could likely raise $200,000 to $600,000 for selling both turbines. The buyer would most likely pay the cost of dismantling and transporting the turbines to a new location, although the town would need to confirm this with the purchaser. Uncertainties affecting the price of turbine resale include whether the turbines are still under warranty when sold and if the town can provide detailed maintenance records with the sale.
◦ Most homeowners prefer to remain in their homes rather than moving, and see leaving their homes as a tremendous loss, yet most would move rather than remain in their homes if the turbines were going to run without curtailment.
◦ If it’s determined to sell the turbines, MassCEC suggests they remain in their location and operational until the time they are purchased, to avoid the costs of proper storage. In order to contribute to the town’s commitment to renewable energy and carbon reduction, the WTOP recommends that any removal of the turbines be combined with the development of a solar project.
◦ Sound barriers and berms, or physical structures used to block sound, were ruled out as an option since the wind turbines are constructed high above the ground,
◦ WTOP does not recommend moving the turbines to a new location because of the potential impacts on people living in nearby housing, the amount of time it would take to implement, the expense associated with deconstructing and reconstructing the turbines, and the uncertainty of gaining FAA approval, necessary state and local permits, and easements for access to adjacent lands – among other cited reasons.
Among concerns expressed by participants at the Dec. 18 meeting: The drafted report would be confusing to the layman who reads it; and that repair costs for the turbines did not factor in those needed now or in the near future but rather only projected repair costs when the turbines are older. The life expectancy for the turbines cited in the draft is 20 years.
While there seemed to be consensus that more studies are needed on noise levels to homes around the turbines, there was dissent around the impact on the property values of these homes. MassCED has offered additional sound testing of homes within standardized distances from the turbines.
WTOP’s final two meetings in the Herman Room of the Falmouth Public Library will be held from 6 pm – 9 pm on Jan. 8. And Jan 9. WTOP hopes to complete and submit its final report to the Board of Selectmen by the end of January.
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