FALMOUTH – Selectmen haven’t agreed on the fate of two town-owned wind turbines in the wake of a failure at town meeting to get funds for their removal. But at their Monday night meeting, they agreed on one thing: They need to decide on their next move soon, and without another round of townwide debate.
“I don’t think we should drag this out very long,” Selectman Mary Pat Flynn said. “Hopefully, by the end of the summer we’ll have a decision made.”
Monday was the first of what’s likely to be a series of discussions by selectmen on how to handle operation of the two 1.65-megawatt turbines, known as Wind 1 and Wind 2, after the May 21 defeat of a ballot question that would have authorized their removal.
The turbines are at the town’s wastewater facility on Blacksmith Shop Road and have been the focus of an ongoing debate, with neighbors complaining about noise and health issues, while others saying the town must run them to recoup their installation costs and provide a source of renewable energy.
Selectmen are, for now, focusing their discussion on data presented in the Falmouth Wind Turbine Options 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 nearby properties or replacing the turbines with solar panels.
But the board isn’t limiting itself to the recommended options in the report. Selectmen Kevin Murphy and Doug Jones both said they would like to see data on running the turbines for different lengths of time during the day.
The turbines are now running 12 hours during the day and are off for 12 hours in the evening, a plan that could cost the town as much as $1.3 million over the next five years, according to the report.
“I’d like to know times of the year where the wind blows more or less,” Murphy said. “There might be a flexible curtailment option.”
Selectmen also asked Town Manager Julian Suso to investigate moving the turbines to another piece of property, be it public or private. That option was discussed but not recommended in the report. Selectmen also want data on what it would cost to buy homes surrounding the turbines and how many homes would be included in a purchase plan.
Ultimately, most of the options facing the selectmen are going to cost money, which will mean another trip to town meeting for voter approval.
Selectmen, however, aren’t aiming for a rerun of the high-tension public hearings on the turbines that led up to the May vote. Monday’s meeting was attended by dozens of wind turbine advocates and opponents, but the discussion wasn’t a public forum.
Selectmen seemed open to another round of public comment, but also said by this point the town’s opinions are largely ossified.
“Is it just going to be more of the same? Is there anything there that’s going to help us make a decision?” Putnam said.
Suso said he’d need about 30 days to gather the requested information, so the board agreed to hold its next wind discussion at a meeting in early August.
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