Selectmen voted last night to shut down the town-owned wind turbines at the Wastewater Treatment Facility from 9 PM to 5 AM every night as part of a new operational model that will be implemented today.
The board had approved that model at their previous meeting two weeks ago, electing to keep the turbine on for 16 hours per day and turning it off for the remaining eight hours. The move is considered a financially break-even scenario, allowing the town to operate the machines in such a way that Falmouth would no longer be losing money on them as they have since May 2012 when selectmen voted to operate them from 7 AM to 7 PM to address the concerns of neighbors who have complained that the turbines have impacted their health and reduced their property values.
At their session last night selectmen offered residents an opportunity to weigh in on what hours they preferred the turbines to be turned off. The town’s consultant, Sustainable Energy Advantage of Framingham, recommended that shutdown should occur from 11 PM to 7 AM every day. Initially, the public opposed the move, requesting the hours of operation be reduced even further, something the board was unwilling to consider. “I don’t like the eight hours off at all,” Marc P. Finneran of Trotting Park Road, Teaticket, said, arguing that this will impact the ability of children to sleep. “You will just torment these kids. You are tormenting everyone anyway.” “I think a good operational time is 7 AM to 7 PM,” said J. Malcolm Donald, prompting chairman Brent V.W. Putnam to respond that “We’ve only got eight hours to work with.”
Mr. Donald then warned about the impacts of sleep deprivation, suggesting that it can lead to childhood obesity and ADD. When Mr. Putnam asked him to focus on an actual eight-hour window the turbines should be turned off, Mr. Donald said, “I don’t know. I guess I can’t help you then.” Later in the evening when Mr. Donald began asking questions about Sustainable Energy Advantage it prompted selectman Douglas H. Jones to ask out of frustration, “Can we get some recommended hours of operation?”
Although Mr. Putnam understood the level of anger among residents, he told the audience that the board was only concerned with the eight-hour time frame in which the turbines would be shut off. “You are faced with an awful decision. I don’t envy anyone of you,” David R. Moriarty of Lower Road, West Falmouth, said, before recommending the turbines be turned off from 9 PM to 5 AM, a window he hoped would afford children the best opportunity to sleep.
Mr. Finneran then suggested 8 PM to 4 AM would be better suited for children’s sleep patterns. But Mr. Jones noted that operating the turbines at 4 AM could potentially lead to violations of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection regulations for excessive noise.
Both Mr. Murphy and selectman Rebecca Moffitt said they were inclined to follow the recommendations of their consultant and shut down the turbines from 11 PM to 7 AM. Ms. Moffitt asked why children were suddenly being thrown into the equation. And she argued that sleep is different for each person, which is why she preferred listening to the town’s consultant.
On the other side Mr. Putnam and Mr. Jones pushed for the 9 PM to 5 AM model, with Mr. Jones noting that there was not a huge difference in power generation compared to the consultant’s proposal. “We are not talking a lot of money,” Mr. Jones said. Mr. Putnam agreed that shutting the turbines down at 9 PM would be better suited to those trying to get sleep, particularly children. And he said it was more in line with the rhythms of the sun setting and rising which many people pattern their sleep after.
“I think nine o’clock is too early,” Mr. Murphy said. Mr. Putnam countered that argument, pointing out that it is closer to the 7 PM shutdown that the board had previously instituted as opposed to the 11 PM shut-down. Ultimately the board agreed in a 3-2 vote to shut the turbines down from 9 PM to 5 AM with Mr. Putnam, Mr. Jones and Selectman Mary (Pat) Flynn supporting the motion.
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