FALMOUTH – Selectmen are planning a July workshop to help craft the next steps in the ongoing debate over two town-owned wind turbines.
Chairman Brent Putnam set the workshop for the board’s July 1 meeting to start discussion of other turbine options in the wake of the May 21 defeat of a ballot question that would have authorized the removal of the turbines, which could have cost up to $14 million. July 1 is also the first day of the town’s new fiscal year.
Putnam said the discussion will focus on other options presented in the Falmouth Wind Turbine Options Analysis Process report, a 55-page document released in January. The report outlines possible scenarios for the turbines’ future, including full-time operation with the town buying abutting properties and replacing the turbines with solar panels.
The urgency to come up with a plan on the long-simmering issue is a matter of money: Continuing to run the turbines only 12 hours a day, as they are now, will cost the town between $672,000 and $1.3 million over the next five years, according to data from the report.
“At this point we have to come up with an operating plan for at least the next fiscal year,” Putnam said.
While the agenda for the workshop is still in flux, Putnam said it’s not going to be a rehash of previous public meetings, many of which were contentious. Now is a time for the selectmen to regroup and get more information on their remaining turbine options, he said.
“At this point, the workshop might include other groups, but it’s going to be a meeting for the board to gather whatever information it needs for the coming year,” he said.
The two 1.65-megawatt turbines, known as Wind 1 and Wind 2, are at the town’s wastewater facility on Blacksmith Shop Road and have been the focus of an ongoing debate in Falmouth. Neighbors of the turbines say they’re too loud and disruptive and have complained of health effects from their operation, while others say the town must run them to recoup their installation costs and provide a source of renewable energy.
Complaints on the health effects have diminished since the town moved the turbines to a 12-hour operation schedule, Health Agent David Carignan said. The health board continues to receive requests to review the turbines’ operations as a public health matter, but short of a peer-reviewed study that indicated a significant connection between turbine operation and adverse health effects, the board is planning no action.
“I’m sure in the mind of the public it’s an ongoing issue and other things could materialize, but at this point there’s no action being proposed by the board,” Carignan said. “The board is receptive to new information that rises to the level of something that is actionable.”
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