Wind energy bills were the focus of a Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy hearing at the State House Tuesday.
Representative David Vieira of East Falmouth received solid support for his Wind Energy Relief Act, a bill that sets similar conditions for wind energy developers that the town of Falmouth now requires.
When private companies build turbines in Falmouth Vieira said, they must set up a fund, that the town can use if problems develop with the project. For example, if the turbine has to be decommissioned or moved to a different location, the town can dip into the fund to handle expenses it may incur.
The proposed bill would require the state to set up two funds, a decommissioning and relocation fund and a relief fund, that cities and towns could use should problems crop up, if the state invested in research, or financially, to help set up a wind turbine.
Vieira spoke outside the hearing room after he testified.
“We should require of the Commonwealth that which we require of the private developer, some funds and escrow in case something goes wrong,” said Vieira.
The money for the two funds created by the bill would be transferred from the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust Fund, a public benefits fund for renewable energy. The Department of Public Utilities and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center would then choose the best ways to distribute the funds to cities and towns. Vieira proposed 15 million dollars in the relief fund, and 7.5 million dollars in decommission and relocation fund.
Because turbines in Falmouth cannot run on Sundays, Christmas, New Years, and Thanksgiving, and can only run 12 hours a day, Vieira said the town is not yet able to make a profit from the turbines. He said theoretically, the town could apply for relief until it found a more efficient way to run the turbines.
If the bill were to pass, citizens could also apply to the relief fund. Vieira said the sound from turbines cause a personal loss to citizens.
“From constituents talking to me it’s the use and enjoyment of their property that includes sleeping at night, enjoying gardening, being out in the yard during the day, all that,” said Vieira.
Many people who testified at the hearing complained of headaches, and sleepless nights caused by turbines.
Eleanor Tillinghast of Green Berkshire, an environmental group in Western Massachusetts testified in favor of the bill, because it would allow cities and towns to decommission or relocate turbines.
“If you never can sleep or if your children’s sleep is interrupted and they are not doing well in school, you get headaches, you get palpitation of your hearts because the noise of wind turbine is very different from other noise,” said Tillinghast.
She suggested that wind turbines should be located at least one mile and a quarter away from residential zones.
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