Selectmen were presented with an option Monday that could bring one of the town’s two municipal wind turbines back into operation further from abutters on Blacksmith Shop Road.
A Barnstable Superior Court judge ordered both turbines be shut down in June 2017, prompting selectmen to evaluate options for what to do with the two structures, known as Wind 1 and Wind 2.
The order to shut down the structures was made on the grounds that they constituted a nuisance to neighbors near the structures at the town’s waste treatment facility. But a presentation from Weston & Sampson, the firm hired as a consultant by the town to explore options for the turbines, said Monday there is potential for Wind 2 to be brought back into operation.
Steve Wiehe of Weston & Sampson said relocating Wind 2 approximately a half mile away from its current location could allow the turbine to operate without adversely impacting neighbors. The proposed site for the relocation would be 2,147 feet away from the nearest residential property to the north of the site, and 2,144 feet away from the nearest neighbor to the south, Wiehe said.
The relocation is estimated to cost the town $3,025,000, which includes the cost of dismantling the turbine at its current location. However, it is projected that the town could net $5.7 million in revenue over 20 years if Wind 2 resumes operation.
Wiehe said that at least three to four acres of land would need to cleared from the waste treatment plant property to accommodate both a road leading to the turbine’s new site, as well as space for the turbine’s installation.
Noise and shadows from the turbine’s blades would not affect neighbors at the new site, Wiehe said. At 2,000 feet away, Wiehe said the turbines would produce sound about two decibels above the existing background noise in the area.
“One to three decibels is considered pretty low by most people’s standards,” he told selectmen.
Wiehe said there is not enough space on the waste treatment property to appropriately relocate both turbines on the site. As a result, options were presented for alternatives for Wind 1. Those include reusing the structure as a cellular tower, selling the structure to another entity perhaps out of state, or dismantling the structure and selling it for parts.
The town could expect to net an average of $65,000 a year through a land use agreement should it find a provider interested in using the turbine as a cell tower, Wiehe said. But Selectmen Chairman Susan Moran stressed that the conversion could easier said than done, citing failed attempts at bringing a cell tower to West Falmouth in the past.
“That’s a tough road,” Moran said.
Meanwhile, Wiehe said selling the turbine for parts would likely be “a wash” for the town.
“You met get some money, but it wouldn’t be a huge windfall,” he told selectmen.
Residents for and against the idea of keeping Wind 2 in operation spoke Monday. Mark Cool, a former member of the town’s planning and zoning boards, said uncertainty about whether the turbine constitutes a “non-complying” or “non-conforming” structure could cause problem’s for Wind 2’s future operation.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of push back,” he said.
Kathy Elder, an abutter to the turbines on Blacksmith Shop Road, expressed her disappointment that keeping Wind 2 in operation was being considered. The town has been engaged in a series of lawsuits with neighbors over the turbines’ operation since they were built.
“I’m overwhelmed by the idea of moving Wind 2 to an area that’s still near all the impacted neighbors,” she said, adding that Wind 2 would be better utilized as a solar structure.
But Ron Zweig, a vocal advocate for keeping the turbines in operation, noted that an appeal of the June 2017 decision is ongoing. Any decisions the town makes about Wind 2 should wait until a decision is rendered, he said.
Zweig also noted that voters shot down a ballot question asking for the turbines to be stopped at the 2013 Annual Town Election.
Dave Moriarty spoke against restarting Wind 2. He called the idea “a loser”, noting that it would cost the town as much as $3 million for maintenance in the way of blade replacements in the future.
Moran said selectmen will take their time to consider all options, calling Monday’s presentation a preliminary discussion.
“This is a bit of a broad stroke, but we wanted the public to have a chance to review it,” she said.
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