SCITUATE – Scituate will ask the company that owns the wind turbine on Driftway if they can cut down on the amount of time it runs after eight years of complaints from residents living hundreds of feet from the 262-foot tall turbine.
After a two-hour meeting Tuesday night, members of the board of selectmen agreed they should ask Scituate Wind LLC to calculate the costs to the town of shutting down the turbine when the wind blows from the west and for up to eight hours every night.
While select board members disagreed on issues over speed and timing, they all agreed the turbine needs to be stopped from running when it casts a shadow over nearby residences, causing a flicker effect.
The board was supposed to discuss the results of a sound compliance report conducted by Epsilon Associates, but the company’s methodology was called into question and a report by the state Department of Environmental Protection on the sound study is not done yet, Town Administrator Jim Boudreau said.
That study was approved in 2017. It is the third to be conducted by the town. A previous study, conducted between 2013 and 2015, found the turbine to be in compliance with noise regulations despite endless complaints from neighbors. The turbine was built in 2012 and has been a source of contention ever since.
The most recent sound study found the turbine is in compliance with the town’s bylaws and the state regulations on noise levels on all but one occasion when tested. The town adopted the state’s regulations.
One house, just 650 feet away from the turbine, had a higher noise level than is acceptable on one of the four nights tested. The homeowners received “mitigation funds” from Scituate Wind LLC.
In 2016, the town launched a pilot program and turned the turbine off between 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. when the winds were coming from the southwest at less than 10 mph. Health Agent Jennifer Keefe said at the time that complaints dropped by 65 percent, but they did not stop.
Board members Andrew Goodrich and Karen Connolly came to the same conclusion – the turbine should be shut off late at night, when people are trying to sleep.
“I think it may be easier, for everyone involved, if we went time-based instead of a directional-based curtailment,” he said.
Board member Tony Vegnani said the turbine should be allowed to run at higher wind speeds because the wind outside will be so loud that the turbines cannot be heard. The area residents on the video call shook their heads when Vegnani made this claim.
When Canfield opened the meeting to public comment, resident David Dardi said wind speed did not matter because comparing the log of resident complaints to the log of when the turbine operated showed the wind speed and direction on the ground is often wildly different than that measured by the turbine 262 feet in the air.
Connolly said she wants to know how much it will cost to shut off the turbines at night and, if it costs too much, send an override request to town meeting.
The turbine sits next to the wastewater treatment plant on land leased from the town. That contract and agreement is set to last for another five years and forcing the turbine to shut down entirely would likely drag the town into court, Canfield said.
Vegnani said the whole town voted for the wind turbine and it generates revenue for the town – $300,000 a year.
The board agreed to meet with the company to see what kind of curtailment would be acceptable, how much it would cost and if they can stop the turbine from spinning when it causes flicker. They’ll also ask to decrease the times the turbine is running during the summer.
Wind turbines built near houses have been a problem to the people who live near them in Kingston, Falmouth and Plymouth.
In Kingston, the turbine stopped spinning in 2019 because it was too noisy, the result of a defect in the turbine. In Plymouth, the board of health declared the four turbines along Route 25 a nuisance. In Falmouth, two turbines were shut down by a court order.