Wind 1 and Wind 2, the two 1.65-megawatt turbines the Town of Falmouth installed on industrial-zoned land between 2009 and 2010, no longer turn or generate electricity.
However, Falmouth residents Neil P. Andersen and Elizabeth L. Andersen said they still feel the aftereffects from the turbines and from their legal fight against them.
At risk today is the couple’s house on Blacksmith Shop Road, a home that Mr. Andersen said last Tuesday, August 21, that he built in 1990 and to which he has made multiple additions over two decades.
Mr. Andersen said he and his wife are struggling to afford their mortgage after paying more than $100,000 in legal fees and with the resulting time away from his construction business.
The Town of Falmouth offered to buy the property in 2013, but the Andersens did not accept the offer.
“All I have is my house. I don’t own a boat, and we don’t take vacations,” Mr. Andersen said, pointing to a small pond he created in his front yard in memory of a relative who died from leukemia. “What am I supposed to do with all of this?”
The Andersens, who abut Wind 1 by 1,300 feet, sued the town in September 2012. They claimed the structure’s operation disrupted their ability to enjoy their property.
The couple sought damages for physical injury, loss of property value and loss of income.
In April 2017, a Barnstable Superior Court jury found in favor of the Town of Falmouth in a nuisance trial concerning Wind 1 and the Andersen property.
“The jury determined there was no nuisance at the property and awarded no damages,” Falmouth town counsel Frank K. Duffy said at the time.
The details of the town’s offer to purchase the house nearly four years ago are still confidential, Mr. Andersen said last week.
“Basically, the offer said the town will buy our house for fair market value and we’ll get three estimates,” he said. “We’ll buy your house, we’ll give you a rental fee until you move, and in the meantime you have to dismiss all the other lawsuits. You have to file with the registry that the nuisance has been eliminated, and as soon as you sign this agreement, we get to turn the turbines up, to do what we want with them.”
Mr. Andersen said that he and his wife “were the only ones holding them back from running the turbines 24 hours a day because of the noise violation on our house.”
“We’ve got other neighbors with almost the same distress as us, but the town didn’t care about those [people]; they didn’t really care about us,” he said. “It shows in the offer. All they really wanted to do was run the turbines.”
When Town Manager Julian M. Suso first presented the offer, which the Falmouth Board of Selectmen approved in November 2013, Mr. Andersen said he and his wife “didn’t even want to answer because it was so hurtful.”
“What about moving expenses, what about everything that we’ve lost?” he said. “We counter-offered. In general we agreed [to the offer], but we weren’t going to sign this. The town came to court with all this paperwork; they figured they’ve got a deal with us. We said we don’t have any deal, we thought we were still negotiating, so we went to court for a hearing for the special permit for Wind 1, and the judge shut the turbines down back to 12 hours [from 14 hours a day] and also shut them off on Sundays.”
Soon after, Mr. Andersen said an outside attorney hired by the town and paid for by Massachusetts Clean Energy Center said publicly that there was an agreement and that the Andersens had rejected their own counter-proposal.
In 2015, Mr. Suso called the town’s proposed settlement “comprehensive and reasonable.”
Since that time, Mr. Andersen said he and his wife have been “attacked” often in the press and occasionally in public by some wind energy advocates in Falmouth.
“A person in line at a store once said to me, ‘So you’re the guy who’s costing me all this extra money on my taxes,'” he said. “We’ve gotten letters from windies. We’ve had people throw eggs at our house.”
In his basement near his barely used woodshop, he has three large containers packed with legal paperwork, newspaper articles and letters related to the turbines.
Mr. Andersen said there is a general misunderstanding that he is anti-wind.
“In the early ’80s, before they had an energy committee, I was the Falmouth representative to what was then called the Barnstable County Energy Task Force,” he said. “I started my business back in the ’80s putting up solar hot-water systems and building houses, so when I saw the wind turbine coming up, I said, ‘This is cool, it goes all along with what I believe in.’ I kind of welcomed it, but then when it went up I said, ‘Wow, that thing’s pretty big and it’s pretty close,’ and then it started turning. It took me three weeks to notice the effects. My wife and a couple of the neighbors noticed the very first night.”
The turbines cause a subaudible, low-frequency pulse that has been measured and confirmed by experts inside and outside the Andersen’s house, Mr. Andersen said.
“This is a pounding pulse that you can’t hear, but it gets into your chest cavity. It’s extremely distressing. It mimics your heartbeat and you cannot sleep; it just drives you nuts,” he said.
These “brain-rattling pulses” affected his ability to work and earn a living.
“I was having accidents with my table saw. I was dropping things. I couldn’t focus,” he said. “I would look at the wind speed and wind direction for the following day, and that would determine my day. We said, ‘We’ll leave for the day, we’ll take off, we can’t stay here.’ We spent a lot of time away from the house. Luckily, we had a group of neighbors who worked with us to split the costs and split the knowledge. It got us this far. But nobody [else] really believed us. Nobody understood.”
Mr. Andersen decided to help educate lawmakers at the Massachusetts State House and in communities as far away as Western Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.
“I spent an awful lot of time, and I know that I helped a lot of other people,” he said. “It’s not the wind turbines. The problem has to do with size and proximity. That’s all it is. They’re too big, too close. They’re utility-size; they’re made to pump out power for the utilities.”
Day O. Mount, a Blacksmith Shop Road resident and former US ambassador to Iceland, said Monday, August 27, that the turbines “were certainly a terrible problem” when they were operating and that he did have health impacts because of them.
“I testified to those health effects with the zoning board of appeals and the board of health,” he said. “It was an awful time. Sadly, most people in Falmouth couldn’t relate to it or didn’t believe it, so it was difficult in that way as well. I can’t say that I have any ongoing health effects, and that is a blessing. It is wonderful not having to contend with that anymore, to be able to go outside to work.”
Of Mr. Andersen, Mr. Mount said, “Neil is a very good neighbor, always trustworthy, and he’s helped us out a number of times. He is honest, straightforward and trustworthy. I hold Neil in high regard. He did the right thing fighting the turbines. I also felt we went about it in the right way: we went to the meetings, we did our due diligence and we worked our way up through town government. When the town was not responsive, we had to go to the courts, but we were always open, we didn’t make personal attacks. Fortunately, we were successful after a time.”
Today, Mr. Andersen said he has ringing in his ears and has lost two teeth due to grinding while sleeping, both of which he attributes to stress from the turbines.
On the financial side, he said he and his wife have traded in all the stock they owned as well as 90 percent of his retirement policy.
“So now I’m 65 and I’ve got a mortgage I really can’t afford for this big house I really don’t want at this stage,” he said. “There’s two of us here. I’m just kind of stuck, you know. So people ask me how I’m doing, and I say I’m not doing good. I just want people to know.”
Despite a two-year moratorium on the turbines later on, Mr. Andersen said that before Wind 1 started turning in March 2010, the town had made no outreach to nearby residents.
“There were no noise tests. There was no special permit hearing,” he said. “The wind turbine went up, boom. The town said, ‘We’re going to put it up, period, and see what happens.'”
The Andersens are now painting and fixing up the house to put it on the market for sale eventually.
“Hopefully, there will be enough equity that we can move,” Mr. Andersen said, hanging his head. “It’ll be out of town, as much as I love Falmouth. Falmouth’s a beautiful town. We just don’t feel welcome here, to be honest with you. It’s taken its toll. I had so many plans for this house.”