SCITUATE – In the five years since a wind turbine was erected on the Driftway, residents have complained to the health board about noise and the flicker of light and shadow as the turbine blades rotate.
They have also complained about headaches, dizziness, nausea, ringing in the ears and sleep deprivation.
On Tuesday, selectmen asked town health director Jennifer Keefe and acting Town Administrator Al Bangert to determine how much money the town would lose if it stopped operating the turbine.
The board also asked them to conduct noise level studies, which have not been done since the initial installation of the turbine.
“I personally do not want to see residents impacted negatively with their health and wellness,” Selectman Maura Curran said. “But I think we do need to see what is the impact to our town if it is turned off every night.”
In 2015, the town conducted a study and found that complaints from residents were most common during the summer between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., when the wind was less than 10 mph and blowing in a southwest direction.
During the last two summers, between June and October, the town has shut down the turbine when those conditions are met.
In a presentation at the selectmen’s meeting Tuesday, Keefe said summer complaints initially went down. Between 2015 and 2016, the number of days on which complaints were made dropped from 25 to nine. But this past summer, residents complained about the turbine on 18 days.
“Maybe the conditions we’ve established aren’t good enough,” Bangert said.
Keefe’s study showed that over the last year, complaints were highest between 11 p.m and 6 a.m., but were not necessarily limited to southwest winds.
Her study included a cost analysis that said the town would lose roughly $163,000 in revenue if the turbine is shut off at night year-round.
The town earns money from the turbine by selling energy to National Grid, but it must also pay the company that operates the turbine.
Residents say the noise is worse in the summer when windows are kept open.
“Here is this home we’ve had for 36 years and it’s not the peaceful place it once was,” said Valerie Vitali, who lives on the Driftway.
“I chose not to call and complain every night because I can’t live my life screaming at you. I love my home and I love my property, but it’s a problem. … It’s a plane circling that never lands, and it’s a vibration.”
Selectman John Danehey asked Keefe to come back to the selectmen with two additional cost studies conducted between mid-April and mid-October.
He wants to know how much revenue would be lost if the town shut down the turbine at night, with the wind coming from any direction, and a breakdown of revenue loss if the turbine is shut down at night only when the wind comes from certain directions.
“It would become an expense to the town if you did anything much more dramatic,” Selectman Anthony Vegnani said.
The selectmen did not say when they would revisit the issue, but Keefe said it was unlikely her studies would be completed by the next meeting.
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