March 4, 2013
Letters, Massachusetts

The wind turbine cost-benefit ledger

Falmouth Patch | March 4, 2013 |

It’s important to make clear the “Public Good” offered by Falmouth’s municipal wind turbines to Town Meeting. What has been the turbines usefulness to the community as a whole? The two advertised advantages, provide at past Town Meetings, have been carbon dioxide reduction and municipal revenue gain. Town Meeting needs to recognize to what extent these benefits exist before contemplating whetherto fund their removal.

State data indicates Massachusetts emits 84,830,000 metric tons of CO2 annually. The Wind Turbine Option Process (WTOP) final report estimates Wind 1 and Wind 2 reduce CO2 emissions in the State by about 3306 tons annually.

Dividing 3306 by 84,830,000, town owned wind turbines enable 0.00389 % reduction in the carbon dioxide emission of the State annually.

According to the WTOP final report (financial projections calculated by DNV Kema and Sustainable Energy Advantage) the next five (5) years of Wind 1/Wind 2 operation, while applying the ‘current curtailment protocol’, will produce a revenue surplus estimated to be between $100 to $8,000 annually.

This analysis does not include the current or potential future estimated town legal liability costs. Night curtailment, called for by the MassDEP, has proven to mitigate sleep complaints, yet other health and property value depreciation problems persist. Legal battles are expected to continue.

In his presentation to the Finance Committee, Town Manager Suso noted that the current operational model in which the wind turbines are on 12 hours a day, was unsustainable. Fiscal Year 2014 is the last fiscal year that wind energy receipts (‘seed money’ derived by the pre-sale of $1 million Renewable Energy Credits) will support the operating expenses of both town wind turbines. With the depletion of that wind turbine sustainability fund, he included in his report a $106,000 subsidy from the general fund tocover the costs of the current operations of the turbines.

Mr. Suso said that currently the town is running at a net loss and that the town will go bankrupt if current conditions remain status quo.

If there were indeed a major reduction of CO2 emission, it could be argued that the health and property costs to the few might have to be compensated or even endured for the higher good. There is no such benefit.

If the WTOP final report, and Mr. Suso’s budget report are to be believed, little to no net revenue gains are being realized, nor are to be expected.

Our community’s cost-benefit ledger is forcing all of us to answer the question – “is it really worth it?”

Mark J. Cool
Fire Tower Rd

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