FALMOUTH – Once more, with feeling: Selectmen are heading to town meeting to get voter approval on an operating plan for the town’s twin wind turbines.
Next week, they’ll decide which of four operation plans to put forward – anything from running both turbines 24 hours a day, or limiting the turbines’ operation by up to eight hours per day.
It’s the board’s second stab at getting a plan past town meeting. The first, a proposal to fund removal of the turbines, was shot down both at a special town meeting in the spring and in a May 21 ballot question.
But now, according to a report from Town Manager Julian Suso presented to the selectmen Monday night, there’s more urgency to their decision. The town is facing three lawsuits over the turbine operation, with more on the horizon.
The four plans being considered by the selectmen all would, in theory, generate enough money to fund mitigation options for affected homeowners and could also quiet the lawsuits pending against the town.
“There is an expanding risk that a court order will potentially take control of the matter and the town will be left with no reasonable and effective options,” Suso wrote.
The two 1.65-megawatt turbines, known as Wind 1 and Wind 2, at the town’s wastewater facility on Blacksmith Shop Road have been the focus of an ongoing debate since their installation. Neighbors complain about noise and health issues and others say the town must run them to recoup their installation costs and provide a source of renewable energy.
Selectmen have been using the Falmouth Wind Turbines Options Process report, a 55-page document released in January that outlined scenarios for the turbines’ future, as the basis for their discussion. That report indicated that the current operational scheme for the turbines – running each of them for 12 hours a day – won’t generate sufficient revenue to cover their costs, to say nothing of paying for mitigation.
The discussion has focused on plans that run the turbines at a minimum of 80 percent capacity to generate the needed revenue. Selectmen will seed the mitigation account with $520,000 in town money – if that component is approved by town meeting – that eventually will be recouped by the turbines’ operation. The town also will ask for contributions from the state to the mitigation fund.
Selectmen plan to appoint a facilitator to negotiate directly with homeowners within one-third of a mile to reach a mitigation agreement, which likely would include an end to any pending or planned lawsuits.
Over 10 years, the four turbine operational plans will generate between $2 million and $3.8 million for operation and mitigation, according to town projections. Suso’s most recent report will be available on the Falmouth town website, www.falmouthmass.us.
The selectmen will take public comment and plan to vote on a plan at their next meeting on Monday.
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