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Falmouth to receive turbine funding relief

Falmouth is receiving a hefty boost from the state to help with operating costs of the two wind turbines located at the town’s wastewater treatment plant.

The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) agreed to give Falmouth $500,000 toward turbine maintenance and to absolve the town from a commitment to deliver over 3,000 in renewable energy certificates (RECs) stipulated in a 2009 agreement.

The town was obligated to begin payment on a $1 million advance from the CEC in the form of RECs starting this week. The agreement was based upon full-time turbine operation. A REC represents one kilowatt of power generated from green energy.

The grant and amended contract are part of an overall plan to award Falmouth up to $1.5 million over 15 years to ease the financial strain and offset money the town lost in scaled-back turbine operation.

The board of selectmen agreed on Monday, March 30, to enter into the two new agreements with the state.

“It benefits the taxpayers by helping to balance out what we’re losing from lowering from full-time use,” said selectman Susan L. Moran.

The Falmouth Board of Selectmen voted in September 2013 to run the turbines for 16 hours a day in an effort to generate enough revenue to cover their operational costs. Revenue comes from the green energy credits. A few months later, a Barnstable County judge ordered the turbines to shut down for 12 hours a day and completely off on Sundays and some holidays. Currently, Falmouth sells its RECs to the Cape and Vineyard Cooperative and on the open REC market.

“The agreement accommodates our present circumstances,” said town manager Julian M. Suso.

The amended agreement changes the terms from expecting 3,624 RECs a year to a number based on the operation schedule of the turbines.

Selectman Douglas H. Jones confirmed that the new agreement obligates the town to run the turbines on a current court-ordered schedule and provides relief if the court mandates a further reduction of hours.
The CEC will also pay the town an additional sum of up to $73,000 a year for the RECs they do receive from the town. Assistant town manager Heather B. Harper said the original advance REC payment was based upon $45 per credit. Now the CEC is paying an additional $25 to $45 per REC.

The $500,000 unplanned maintenance grant is contingent on the town earmarking $300,000 to the wind turbine account, which was appropriated at last November’s Town Meeting. Ms. Harper said there is a Town Meeting article for the Annual Town Meeting seeking an additional $100,000 to bring the fund closer to the $1 million fund goal. The fund had been depleted to pay for maintenance bills.

Town Counsel Frank K. Duffy said these agreements are not related to the town’s current application with the state Supreme Judicial Court seeking further review of an appellate decision ruling the town erected Wind 1 in error.