The turbines, located at the town's wastewater treatment facility, have been beset by controversy since their installation. Neighbors have complained about noise and ill effects caused by their operation, and the town continues to be locked in related litigation on several fronts.
FALMOUTH – More than a year after the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center approved giving Falmouth up to $1.5 million to offset lost revenue from its controversial wind turbines, the town is poised to collect the money.
The Board of Selectmen on Monday voted unanimously to authorize Town Manager Julian Suso to sign two contracts with the quasi-public state agency that will help the town recoup losses because of the turbines’ reduced operation. In November 2013, a court order limited operation of the turbines to 12 hours a day, six days a week, which has drastically reduced the revenue the town is able to generate.
In the first deal, the town will receive a one-time, $500,000 grant to cover unplanned maintenance, according to a summary of the contracts included in the selectmen’s packet. The money will go into the turbines’ reserve account, which has been depleted due to the reduced operations. The grant is on top of $300,000 approved for the reserve fund by town meeting in the fall; selectmen will ask town meeting to approve another $100,000 this spring, which will nearly return the reserve to its earlier $1 million total.
A second agreement modifies the town’s 2009 agreement with MassCEC and reduces the number of renewable energy certificates the town has to provide MassCEC on a yearly basis. One certificate represents one megawatt-hour of electricity generated by the turbine; starting today, the town had to deliver a certain number of certificates to the state to repay a $1 million advance that partially funded installing Wind 1, one of the turbines.
MassCEC will also pay more for the renewable energy certificates it does receive: up to $73,000 extra per year under the current operations, or $1.1 million over the next 15 years, according to the summary. That reduces to $65,000 a year, or $975,000 over 15 years, if the town returns to its 16-hour-a-day operation.
Suso said negotiating the agreements with MassCEC took a year because of the complex, uncharted nature of the matter.
“We’re breaking new ground,” he said. “This hasn’t happened before, and we needed to go through a number of steps to get to the point where we had reasonable legal consensus.”
Suso said Town Counsel Frank Duffy was doing some “minor fine tuning” to the contracts Tuesday, but that they are fundamentally complete.
Mark Cool, a turbine neighbor who has been involved in some of the lawsuits contesting their operation, said he thinks the deals with MassCEC are good for the town despite the harm he and his wife, Annie, say they’ve suffered because of the turbines.
“As a taxpayer, anything to relieve the town’s burden is going to be a benefit,” he said. “I think it’s smart of the selectmen.”
The turbines, located at the town’s wastewater treatment facility, have been beset by controversy since their installation. Neighbors have complained about noise and ill effects caused by their operation, and the town continues to be locked in related litigation on several fronts.
In addition to the suit that limited their hours, the town is petitioning the Supreme Judicial Court to review a lawsuit over a zoning dispute stemming from the installation of Wind 1. The Court of Appeals recently sided with neighbors who contend that the town should have received a special permit from its Zoning Board of Appeals before erecting the turbine; the town’s position is that, since the turbines are municipal structures, they don’t require zoning review.
Duffy said Monday that the outcome of that suit will not affect the modified MassCEC agreements.
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