Republican Congressman Thomas M. McClintock of California took Massachusetts Governor Charles D. Baker Jr. to task regarding the Falmouth wind turbines at a hearing of the House Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday, February 6.
“The Wall Street Journal published a scathing editorial on the experience of Falmouth, Massachusetts, which spent $10 million on wind turbines, and it’s been a disaster,” Rep. McClintock said at the hearing. “That small town went deeply into debt to finance them. The townspeople couldn’t bear the noise, the constant flickering of light as 400-foot windmills turned and property values plunged 20 percent. I wonder how that squares with the bright picture that you’ve painted.”
Governor Baker acknowledged, in turn, the Falmouth wind turbine project did not go as planned.
“I think, sometimes when something doesn’t go the way it should go, everybody blames the concept,” he said. “Well, sometimes, we just screw up the way we actually implement it, which makes the concept look bad.”
Falmouth Board of Selectmen chairman Susan L. Moran said yesterday the state and federal government should support Falmouth with the financial consequences of the wind turbine project.
“I think that, nationally, folks are realizing that when you are a pioneer with the encouragement of the state and federal government, as Falmouth was, sometimes there are unexpected experiences, which can be extremely costly, and when that happens, I think the state and federal government should stand behind the local pioneers, which in this case was the Town of Falmouth,” Ms. Moran said.
She said the wind turbines were installed with “good intentions.”
“The municipality and the state that were part of this initiative had good intentions and learned that there can be unexpected results when you try to maximize new technology for the public good,” Ms. Moran said.
The town could end up paying more than $7 million in debt related to the wind turbines. There are $3.6 million in bond payments remaining for Wind 1, which the town is required to pay. In addition, the town might be required to pay $3.5 million to the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust.
The town borrowed $4,865,000 from the trust to construct Wind 2. The loan agreement states the town would not owe principal or interest as long as Wind 2 remains operational. Due to Wind 2’s past operation, the town’s obligation has been reduced to $3.5 million. It is not clear if the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust would forgive the remainder of that debt, should the turbines relocate and operate outside Falmouth.
The town’s two wind turbines were installed at the wastewater treatment plant in 2009 and 2010. Wind 1 was shut down in September 2015 after the Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals issued a cease-and-desist order. Wind 2 was shut down in June 2017, after Barnstable County Superior Court Judge Cornelius J. Moriarty II upheld the zoning board of appeals’ decision deeming the turbines a nuisance.
At its January 14 meeting, the board of selectmen voted not to relocate the wind turbines elsewhere in town. Instead, they asked the town administration to create requests for proposals to either lease property outside Falmouth to run the wind turbines, or sell the turbines, or re-purpose a wind turbine tower as a cellphone and repeater tower.
“We are working with town counsel and the folks involved here in procurement—Jen Petit, Peter Johnson-Staub and myself—in forming exactly how we want to package those,” Town Manager Julian M. Suso said, adding that no RFPs have been issued yet.
Having not seen the interaction between Governor Baker and Rep. McClintock, Mr. Suso said he could see some truth in the governor’s statement, but stopped short of saying how specifically it applied to the situation in Falmouth.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding