The Falmouth Board of Selectmen announced Monday, June 26, that it will seek further information regarding the financial consequences of not operating the town’s turbines before appealing a Barnstable County Superior Court judge’s order to shut down Wind 2, the wind turbine remaining in operation.
The decision to study the situation further came after a nearly-two-hour-and-40-minute executive session. When the board met afterward in public session, chairman Susan L. Moran, reading a prepared statement on behalf of the board, said the possible monetary costs to the town are so great as to warrant additional thought.
One of multiple pending legal actions against the pair of wind turbines near Blacksmith Shop Road, this case set town hall against Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals and residents Barry A. and Diane C. Funfar. Judge Cornelius J. Moriarty II sided with the appeals board and the Funfars, deeming Wind 2 a nuisance and issuing a cease-and-desist order.
Wind 1 was shut down in September 2015 after the zoning board of appeals issued a cease-and-desist order.
About 30 people gathered in the selectmen’s meeting room in town hall awaiting the board’s decision. Like many, Michael and Julie Palmieri favor renewable energy and turbines generally. They sympathize just as strongly with their fellow residents, who complain that the noise and air pressure generated by the 397-foot machines negatively affected their health.
“It’s hard. They put all this money in, and we thought it was a great idea,” said Ms. Palmieri, who likened the sound made by the rotating turbines to the stomach-rumbling vibration generated by bass speakers in an approaching vehicle.
“Certainly, offshore wind turbines will become a big thing in the coming years,” Mr. Palmieri said. “But it shouldn’t be right on top of houses.”
Town Meeting member Deborah Siegal echoed those sentiments. Although in favor of renewable energy, Ms. Siegal finds fault in the size and scope of the two towers, as well as their proximity to residences.
“I’m against [the turbines],” she said. “I’m a strong supporter of the environment, but I am against them. They should not be situated near dwellings.”
It is not yet clear how much the powering down of both turbines will cost Falmouth. Town officials erected the pair to power the city’s wastewater plant and generate renewable energy credits. Town Manager Julian M. Suso said last week that the loss of revenue was not known, although he described it as likely “significant.”
Finances, though, seemed to weigh heavily on selectmen. Ms. Moran cited the cost of shutting down the turbines as well as the outstanding financial obligations to the Mass Clean Energy Center and the Mass Water Pollution Abatement Trust in her prepared statement.
Before construction on the first turbine began, the Clean Energy Center offered Falmouth $1 million for the project in recognition of the power estimated to be added to the grid by 2029. The agency gave Falmouth an additional $1.8 million over 15 years in 2013 to offset revenue lost owing to scaled-back operations in light of the turbines’ affect on neighbors.
The Water Pollution Abatement Trust, using dollars from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, gave Falmouth an interest-free loan of $4.85 million for construction of Wind 2.
In 2013, officials with the trust told the town that if the turbine “ceases to function as an energy-efficient project,” it would require Falmouth to pay principal and interest on the loan.
The town also borrowed nearly $5 million for Wind 1 and pays roughly $400,000 a year in debt services.
Ms. Moran also asked on behalf of the board that the litigants behind any and all action in opposition of the turbines instruct their legal counsel to again begin settlement discussions with town hall.