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FALMOUTH – The two town-owned wind turbines whose operation bitterly divided the community for years will never spin again in Falmouth.
In a vote that put an end to the eight-year turbine debate, four of five selectmen supported a motion at their meeting Monday night not to allow the pair to run within town borders. Selectman Samuel Patterson abstained.
Selectman Douglas Jones made the motion. “I have no interest in having these turbines run in Falmouth ever again,” Jones said.
Wind 1 and Wind 2, which went online in 2010 and 2012, respectively, were the subject of nine lawsuits by abutters during their operation. Neighbors complained about a long list of turbine-related health effects.
In 2017, Barnstable Superior Court Judge Cornelius Moriarty agreed that the two 1.65-megawatt turbines posed a nuisance and ordered that they never operate again at their current location on the town’s wastewater treatment facility site on Blacksmith Shop Road.
Wind 1 already had been prohibited from spinning in Falmouth in 2015, after the state Appeals Court ruled it needed a special permit, which was then denied by the Zoning Board of Appeals.
But the selectmen continued to explore local options for Wind 2 after Moriarty’s decision.
In October, Stephen Wiehe, an associate with engineering firm Weston & Sampson, identified a potential spot for Wind 2 northeast of where it currently stands. The closest residential neighbors to the new location would be 2,100 feet to the north and 2,200 feet to the south.
Before Monday’s vote, Selectman Douglas Brown said those distances were not enough to satisfy him. “I don’t think it really fits, and we just have to face that it won’t work on that site,” Brown said.
Selectman Megan English Braga bemoaned the financial hit the town would take.
“There is no way to sugarcoat this,” she said. “The decision the judge made is going to hurt every person in this town in taxes.”
Dispensing with Wind 1 is expected to cost somewhere between $4.1 million and $4.6 million. The cost to dismantle and remove the turbine from its current location is estimated at $500,000 to $1 million. The town also took out a loan on Wind 1 that will require average payments of $330,000 annually for the next 11 years.
Wind 2 could cost between $4 million and $5 million, with the same estimated dismantling costs as Wind 1. The town also may be required to pay back $3.5 million in a clean water loan. Of the $5 million total, the state Clean Water Trust forgave $1.5 million.
In an effort to avoid the requirement to pay the $3.5 million, the selectmen directed the town manager to develop two requests for proposals. One would seek land in some other town that Falmouth could lease for relocation and continued operation of one or both turbines. The second would seek a town or entity interested in taking possession of one or both turbines and operating them.
“With respect to Clean Water Trust, that demonstrates the town’s effort to preserve this as clean energy,” Braga said.
At the suggestion of Brown, the selectmen also have asked the town manager to see whether there is any interest from utilities to lease space on the pole of one of the turbines once the giant blades are removed.
Residents who spoke during the turbine discussion agreed it was time to move the pair outside town.
“The time has come to cut your losses,” Russell Lemcke said. “Take them down and move on with life.”
David Moriarty called any effort to spend money to keep the turbines spinning in town as “asinine.”
“It’s time to take the turbines down,” Moriarty said. “We don’t care what the hell you do with them.”
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