FALMOUTH – The panel charged with soothing Falmouth’s wind turbine headaches has hit another bump.
The Falmouth Wind Turbine Options Analysis Process postponed its scheduled Tuesday meeting with selectmen at which members had planned to report their recommendations to selectmen.
“Due to last-minute changes in data, the group requires a final meeting on its own to review, vet and finalize their report,” Eric Roberts of the Consensus Building Institute in Cambridge said in an email Friday. “The (panel) will seek a future date for the joint meeting.”
Group members will meet at the Hermann Foundation room at Falmouth Public Library at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday to discuss the new data. The session will mark the group’s 25th since it started meeting in May.
The firm was hired by the town to facilitate panel discussions about how to address issues surrounding the turbines – Wind 1 and Wind 2 – at the Falmouth Wastewater Treatment Facility on Blacksmith Shop Road.
The postponement came in the wake of Tuesday’s meeting, at which panel members were told that figures used to calculate the financial benefits of leaving the turbines running without curtailment were based on faulty methodology.
New studies found that Wind 1 generates more power than previous tests have shown, according to Tony Rogers of DNV KEMA Energy & Sustainability, an expert employed to study the turbine’s power generation. That means the report to selectmen will show Wind 1 to be more beneficial to town finances than previously thought.
Rogers told panel members Tuesday that he originally found Wind 1 generated 72 percent of the power produced by the privately owned Notus Clean Energy turbine at the Falmouth Technology Park.
But, Rogers said, he did not account for the fact that the data he gathered came during a year that experienced about 5.5 percent less wind than an average year.
Using two alternate methods, he found that Wind 1 could produce as much as 92 percent of the power generated by the Notus turbine, although Rogers said no method was certain.
After learning that new tests showed Wind 1 would likely produce between 80 and 88 percent of the energy produced by the Notus turbine, panel members agreed to adjust the turbines’ financial impact using the figure of 84 percent.
“The report includes financial projections for a set of turbine operational scenarios, and these projections are based on the average annual (energy) production,” said Stacie Smith, a CBI mediator, in an email. “Though the group agreed to the number to use as the average production, they had not all had a chance to see the projected financial implications of that number.”
The group eventually plans to recommend three choices to selectmen: Run the turbines without curtailment; curtail turbine operation; or replace the turbines with solar panels. The panel as a whole will not recommend which of the three options selectmen should pursue.
The postponement did not bother Selectman Mary Pat Flynn, who regularly attends the panel meetings.
“We told them it’s more important for them to get it right,” Flynn said. “As far as I’m concerned if they feel they need more time, that’s fine.”
David Bailey, Falmouth’s director of assessing and a panel member, said he doubts selectmen will be able to select and use any of the three options directly from the report.
“I don’t think the selectmen are going to be able to pick up the document and say, ‘Oh, here’s the final solution,'” Bailey said on Friday. “I think they’re going to have to fine-tune whatever they decide to do.”
The group’s inability to find a clear-cut solution underscores the complexity of the problem, Bailey said.
Before the analysis process group met last week, the town filed a measure with the town clerk that could prevent the turbines from being subject to a proposed zoning bylaw on April’s town meeting warrant, said Frank Duffy, Falmouth’s town counsel.
The planning board’s Wind Energy Systems Bylaw, which will go before town meeting, would ban turbines that produce more than 250 kilowatts from any zoning district in Falmouth.
On Monday, the town filed a “plan of land” for the wastewater treatment plant with the town clerk, Duffy said. If the planning board endorses the measure at its Jan. 22 meeting, Wind 1 and Wind 2 – both 1.65-megawatt turbines – would operate under the current windmill zoning bylaw for the next three years.
“The idea is to grandfather some of the old law,” Duffy said Friday.
The move also comes before any hearings in a lawsuit filed by a group of turbine abutters in Barnstable Superior Court against the town. The suit alleges that Falmouth’s Zoning Board of Appeals incorrectly upheld the town’s decision to exempt itself from a special permitting process before erecting Wind 1, and is expected to go before a judge at the end of the month.
Wind 1, Wind 2: falmouth’s wind energy dreams stall in dispute
Jan. 15, 2010: A 400-foot-tall, 1.65-megawatt Vestas wind turbine is dedicated at the Falmouth Wastewater Treatment Facility.
Sept. 27, 2010: After abutters complain about noise, a town-sponsored study conducted by Harris Miller Miller & Hanson Inc. of Burlington finds Wind 1 does not exceed state limits.
Feb. 17, 2011: Falmouth’s Zoning Board of Appeals fails to get a unanimous vote to appeal Building Commissioner Eladio Gore’s decision to exempt the town from having to go through a special permit for Wind I.
Feb. 28, 2011: Selectmen unanimously vote to shut down Wind 1 when winds exceed 10 meters per second.
March 21, 2011: West Falmouth residents file suit against the town asking a judge to overturn the zoning appeals board’s Feb. 17 decision.
Nov. 9, 2011: Selectmen agree to shut down Wind 1 until spring town meeting but to run Wind 2 for two months and log complaints.
December 2011: Wind 2 goes online.
Jan. 17, 2012: A state-appointed panel finds no evidence that noise and flicker from turbines directly harm abutters.
May 15, 2012: A state study finds that Wind 1 exceeds noise levels for residential neighborhoods. Selectmen agree to run Wind 1 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. only. Wind 2 continues to operate.
June 26, 2012: Selectmen vote to set aside their guidelines on how the town would operate turbines. In turn, several abutters agree to participate in the newly formed Falmouth Wind Turbine Options Analysis Process.
Nov. 13, 2012: Town meeting voters strike down a bylaw that would have dramatically scaled back the size of wind turbines.
Nov. 15, 2012: Town meeting voters strike down a measure that would have shut down Wind 1 and Wind 2.
January 2013: Wind 1 continues to operate during the day. Wind 2 is offline for repairs. The analysis process committee postpones making its report to selectmen.
Correction: Wrong info for Falmouth turbines
Because of an editor’s error, a timeline about the Falmouth wind turbines that ran on Page A1 of Monday’s Times contained two errors. In May, Falmouth selectmen agreed to run Wind 1 and Wind 2 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Currently, Wind 1 is offline for repairs and Wind 2 is operating from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
[January 16, 2013 | www.capecodonline.com]