KINGSTON – An abatement order issued by the Board of Health in August 2014 designating the Independence wind turbine a nuisance was followed by a more restrictive abatement order approved in October 2015.
The 2-megawatt turbine located on the town’s capped landfill was promoted as being a benefit to the town when it first became operational in January 2012. It was a product of the Green Communities Act, which set a goal of 2,000 megawatts of renewable commercial wind turbine power in the state by 2020.
Like other wind turbine projects in Southeastern Massachusetts, this Kingston turbine has generated its share of controversy. The town and the turbine’s owner, Kingston Wind Independence, have gone to court over the second noise abatement order and breach of contract complaints. The legal battle that began in December 2015 has not been resolved.
For Doreen and Sean Reilly and their children, the turbine has been the bane of their existence since it became operational. Theirs are among the numerous complaints from affected residents about loud turbine noise and the effects of shadow flicker, or strobing.
While the Board of Health has filed the two abatement orders based on some acoustical studies, the Reillys continue to press for the board to approve an abatement order because of the negative impact flicker has on their family’s health and well-being.
In a complaint filed in October, the Reillys wrote, “It has been over four years now that we have respectfully requested that the BOH order an abatement to eliminate the strobing impacts to our property which, as described back in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and now here in 2016, adversely impacts our family’s health and well-being.”
The owners of the Independence maintain that it’s a small but very vocal minority that threatens the viability of the project. In June 2015, before suing the town, co-owner Bradford Cleaves said they saw the turbine as a solid economic opportunity for both the town and the company.
KWI leases the former landfill property from the town, and there is a power purchase agreement in place. The turbine was touted as a source of revenue for the town, but the Independence has fallen short of expectations in at least one area, according to the Finance Committee during last year’s budget discussions.
Instead of generating an estimated $800,000 a year in revenue, Finance Committee Chairman Mary MacKinnon disclosed that the actual revenue has been $330,000 to $340,000 a year.
The turbine was out of operation in April and again starting in mid-June of this year due to a yaw system defect affecting the turbine’s rotor before being restored to continuous operation in November.
The Independence isn’t the only turbine in town. Kingston developer Mary O’Donnell’s three Marion Drive turbines weren’t without controversy but are located on private property and therefore do not fall under the same level of scrutiny. A fifth, smaller turbine owned by the state is located at the Kingston train station.
Last fall, town officials accepted a Leading By Example award from the state for Kingston’s comprehensive clean energy and energy efficiency efforts.
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