As of Friday, town officials still don't know if Falmouth will have to pay back nearly $5 million in federal stimulus funds that it received in 2010 to construct Wind 2, Murphy said. The town could also be on the hook for about $1 million that the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center prepaid for renewable energy credits it expected the turbines would produce. CEC officials will not discuss the issue until their next meeting on April 2.
The chairman of Falmouth’s energy committee has asked the state’s energy secretary not to help pay to take down the town’s two wind turbines.
In a letter dated March 4, Megan Amsler told state Executive Office of Energy and Environment Secretary Richard Sullivan that a silent majority in town supports the turbines’ continued operation.
I don’t think the decision-makers are hearing the voice of people saying, ‘Hey, wait a second, we do want these things in the community,'” Amsler said in an interview Friday. “My feelings are pretty clear.”
Amsler’s letter was sent in reaction to the town’s request for state help in taking down the two 1.65-megawatt turbines at Falmouth’s wastewater treatment facility. In the three years since the first of the two began operating, Wind 1 and Wind 2 have become a focal point in town because neighbors say they cause health problems.
Selectmen have placed three articles on the April 9 special town meeting warrant that collectively would order the turbines to be decommissioned and removed. If town meeting approves them, the question of whether to remove the turbines will appear on the town election ballot May 21.
Town Manager Julian Suso estimates decommissioning and removing the turbines could cost up to $15.2 million.
Amsler has led the energy committee since its founding in 2002. In her letter, she wrote that the turbines provide clean energy for Falmouth’s wastewater treatment plant and stabilize the town’s electricity costs. She noted that she served on a panel last year that recommended turbine mitigation options to selectmen and that she is familiar with the neighbors’ unwillingness to compromise.
“I am ashamed that the town has even deigned to ask the state for aid in removing the turbines because they bother 19 people within a 1/3 mile,” the letter said. “Please do not set a precedent by helping our community remove them.”
Selectman Kevin Murphy, board chairman, said that anyone has the right to contact state officials to weigh in on the matter. But he warned that the ongoing outcry against the turbines could jeopardize other renewable projects in town.
In the fall, town meeting will likely be asked to approve a partnership between Falmouth and the air conditioning and heating company Trane to retrofit windows and other sections of town buildings to make them more energy efficient, Murphy said.
The turbine controversy could make the project a more difficult sell to town meeting.
“It’s my belief that if the turbines are left up they will continue to be a symbol,” Murphy said Friday. “If the symbol remains … any renewable energy project will be scrutinized to the nth degree.”
Todd Drummey, an abutter and outspoken opponent of Wind 1 and Wind 2, said Amsler’s letter didn’t faze him. In the coming weeks, many people will contact officials about the issue, he predicted.
Sullivan’s office already has been contacted by people on both sides of Falmouth’s turbine argument, a spokeswoman said. These communications include a petition signed by 96 Falmouth residents in favor of keeping the turbines up and running.
But with the April town meeting vote approaching, many of the financial details surrounding the possible removal of the turbines remain up in the air.
At their last meeting, selectmen endorsed an article that would pay the operating costs of the turbines through fiscal 2014. The board is withholding its stance on the decommissioning and dismantling of the turbines until town meeting.
As of Friday, town officials still don’t know if Falmouth will have to pay back nearly $5 million in federal stimulus funds that it received in 2010 to construct Wind 2, Murphy said.
The town could also be on the hook for about $1 million that the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center prepaid for renewable energy credits it expected the turbines would produce. CEC officials will not discuss the issue until their next meeting on April 2.
Richard Koehler, who serves on Falmouth’s energy committee, said he agrees with Amsler, and believes the state should not help Falmouth fund the removal of the turbines.
He plans to write a few letters himself. “The only solution they offered was take the turbines down and that puts us $12 million to $18 million in the hole,” Koehler said. “That seems like a lot for just a little noise.”
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