A judge has limited the hours of operation of Falmouth’s two wind turbines, siding with a couple who say the towering windmills have caused health problems, and potentially costing the town thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
Barnstable Superior Court Judge Christopher J. Muse granted a preliminary injunction Thursday, ordering the town to only operate the 1.65-megawatt turbines at the wastewater treatment facility 12 hours per day, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday. The turbines will remain idle on Sundays, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
Neil and Elizabeth Andersen, who live about a quarter mile away, say they’ve suffered health issues since the turbines’ construction about three-and-a-half years ago. Neil Anderson said he has lost some of his cognitive functions, and has gaps in his memory.
“This isn’t an anti-wind thing, this is direct negative effects from massive wind turbines,” Andersen said.
The Zoning Board of Appeals declared the wind turbines a nuisance, but the town appealed that decision in court.
“The court finds the Andersens claims that they did not experience such symptoms prior to the construction and operation of the turbines, and that each day of operation produces further injury, to be credible,” Muse wrote in the order. “There is a substantial risk that the Andersens will suffer irreparable physical and psychological harm if the injunction is not granted.”
The environmental group Wind Wise Massachusetts hailed the decision.
“This is believed to be the first time that a court in the U.S. has ruled that there is sufficient evidence that wind turbines near residential areas are a health hazard to families living nearby,” said president Virginia Irvine.
The town had argued that restricting the turbines’ hours would hurt revenue from sales of energy back to the grid. In documents prepared earlier this year for selectmen, consultants estimated that if the 400-foot turbines only operated for 12 hours daily, the town would lose $250,000 to $300,000 a year.
Town officials could not be reached for comment.
The town was ordered to update the court on its efforts to minimize the health effects within 75 days.