FALMOUTH – One of the two wind turbines under a court order never to operate at their current spot may spin again on the wastewater treatment plant property, a little less than a half mile north from where it now stands.
Accomplishing the move, however, would cost the town just over $3 million and isn’t likely to appease critics of the turbine’s current location.
Weston and Sampson engineers were hired by selectmen to consider the possibility of relocating Wind II on the 329-acre plant property, while making it a priority to keep any new location as far away as possible from homeowners in the area.
In its report, released Monday just prior to the selectmen’s meeting, the company said a spot in the northeast corner of the property might fit the bill. Moving the massive 400-foot turbine that half mile would require putting in about 1,200 feet of road, some underground utility cable, and construction of a new foundation, as well as initial dismantlement and subsequent reassembly of the turbine.
A minimum of three acres would have to be cleared on the target site, the report says. Due to the confirmed presence of the eastern box turtle, work on relocation may have to be limited to between Nov. 1 and April 15 – the turtle’s inactive season. An alternative would be to set up “turtle-excluding” fencing around the target area.
The cost for the relocation project was estimated at just over $3 million initially but the turbine would ultimately bring in some money to the town.
Barry Funfar, an abutter to the turbines’ current location, was surprised to hear relocation on the wastewater treatment plant property was even being considered, based on the long and expensive history of litigation the turbine’s current location had prompted.
The report states the closest resident to the location under consideration was about 2,100 feet.
“That’s not far enough,” said Funfar, who said he had suffered several health effects from the operation of the turbines. “It would bother me at that distance. I certainly hope we don’t end up with another round of litigation.”
The two town-owned wind turbines at the treatment plant proved to be a source of bitter debate since the day they started spinning. Wind I went online in 2010, but has not operated since September 2015, when the Zoning Board of Appeals denied it a special permit.
Wind II started operating in 2012 and shut down when Barnstable Superior Court Judge Cornelius Moriarty issued a decision in 2017 that found its operation was a nuisance.
The Massachusetts Appeals Court determined in 2015 that Wind I needed a special permit to operate. The Zoning Board then denied that permit request and Wind I has not spun since.
Wind II was not part of the suit.
While Wind II also lacks the special permit, Town Counsel Frank Duffy said there was no similar successful challenge that forced it to undergo the special permit process.
The Weston and Sampson report points out the town’s wind energy bylaw, approved in 2013, does not allow for wind turbine projects larger than 250 kilowatts. At 1.65 megawatts, Wind II produces six times that amount of energy, but it also predates enactment of the bylaw, the engineering report says. The wind energy bylaw provides that any wind system lawfully in existence as of its 2013 enactment could be considered conforming and may apply for a special permit under the bylaw to alter, relocate or otherwise make improvements.
Some in town don’t agree Wind II has ever been categorized as lawfully in existence, however.
In the report, the engineers looked at the possibility of converting Wind I to a wireless communication tower. Another option would be to store it and use it for parts, as needed, for Wind II.
Selectmen planned to listen to the engineering report on Monday, but called the presentation simply a first step in resolving the future of the turbines.