The town’s two wind turbines will run 16 hours a day starting Oct. 1 under a plan passed by a divided Board of Selectmen on Monday night.
The operating plan increases the current 12-hour operation enough, in theory, for the turbines’ operation to break even financially but falls short of the threshold that would have created funds to pay for mitigation plans for homeowners negatively affected by their operation.
Selectman Kevin Murphy, who made the motion for the plan, said he was moved to eschew mitigation options after sitting through two hours of public comment Monday from town residents on all sides of the turbine debate. Of those who spoke and live near the turbines, he noted, none of them indicated that money would fix their woes.
“Not one person said they’d want us to buy their house, that they’d want money to put up insulation or buy shades so they don’t see the flicker,” Murphy said. “They want us to mitigate this situation to the best possible plan within our means, and it’s within our means to break even as close as possible without disrupting their lives and sleep.
Murphy was joined by Selectman Doug Jones and board Chairman Brent Putnam in approving the operational plan, the precise hours of which have yet to be determined. Selectman Mary Pat Flynn, who voted no along with Selectman Rebecca Moffitt, said the vote preserves the status quo at a time the town needs action.
“I think it’s a failure of leadership,” she said. “I don’t think it moves us forward in any way. I’m sure we could come up with other ways to do it that are more constructive and would be better for the town and the neighbors.”
The two 1.65-megawatt turbines 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.
According to the Falmouth Wind Turbines Options Process report, a 55-page document released in January that outlined scenarios for the turbines’ future, the 12-hour operational scheme for the turbines doesn’t generate sufficient revenue to cover their costs, to say nothing of paying for mitigation.
Until Monday, the discussion had focused on plans that run the turbines at a minimum of 80 percent capacity to generate revenue to cover their operation and fund mitigation options. Over 10 years, the four turbine plans being discussed would have generated between $2 million and $3.8 million for operation and mitigation, according to town projections.
But the talk of running the turbines for longer periods to generate revenue to pay for the harm residents claim that would cause was called circular logic by many who spoke.
Others were more blunt, and said the selectmen were more concerned with dollars than with their constituents.
“Everything here is about money, and everything needs to be about town members’ health,” said Sheldon Lowenthal. “The four choices are no choices. They are choices to harm the neighbors.”
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