Responding to years of complaints from neighbors that they can’t sleep at night because of the noise from the Scituate Wind turbine, the Scituate Select Board ordered the operation shut down at night – from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. – from mid-May to mid-October.
The seasonal hiatus will cost the town about $96,000, according to data from Scituate Wind, the private company that owns and runs the 400-foot-tall turbine on town property under a contract with the town.
Scituate Wind had previously shut off the turbine at night during the summer under specific wind conditions, but neighbors said the noise was still robbing them of sleep and health.
The neighbors have complained of noise and flickering light from the turbine since it went online – in 2012 – behind the town waste-water treatment plant on the Driftway.
“We are grateful we are moving in the right direction,” neighbor Mark McKeever said of the board’s Feb. 23 decision to turn off the turbine at night during the summer. “I wish this would just go away.”
Gordon Deane, president of Palmer Capital Corporation, the manager of Scituate Wind, LLC, said he was “obviously disappointed.”
“It’s important to note that this was a town-initiated project, we built it for the town, and the town has saved over $2 million in electric costs since the turbine began operating,” Deane said. “It’s clearly a situation of the squeaky wheel” getting attention, he said of the neighbor’s complaints, “and there’s no assurance that this will be satisfactory.”
The Select Board considered several degrees of shutting down the turbine to help the neighbors – including turning it off at night year-round, which would cost the town about $300,000, according to the data.
Scituate buys its electricity from Scituate Wind at a reduced rate and receives a payment from National Grid for contributing “green” power to the distribution system, according to Town Administrator James Boudreau. The town is contractually obligated to pay Scituate Wind for lost income if the operation is curtailed, he said.
Most of the discussion at the Zoom meeting was about the financial implications of turning off the turbine, and whether the decision needed a Town Meeting vote.
“Town Meeting voted to put up that wind turbine to generate money for the town,” said board member Anthony Vegnani, who voted against the new restrictions. “We have to go to Town Meeting because it’s the right thing to do. Town Meeting’s expectation is for that thing to spin and to generate money.”
Boudreau told the board that a summer night-time shutoff would not need Town Meeting approval, but he recommended going to the fall Town Meeting if the board wanted further restrictions because of the substantial cost.
Board Chair Karen Canfield said the board had agreed to reduce the turbine’s impact on neighbors. “I would like to take a step to make it better as soon as possible; if we wait to go to Town Meeting, we’re kicking it down the road again,” she said.
Board Member Andrew Goodrich said that the issue went beyond cost, and involved equity.
“There is only one business in town – [the turbine] – that is allowed to keep people up and operate all night,” he said..
Scituate isn’t the only community grappling with negative impact from wind turbines. In 2020, the Plymouth Board of Health declared a cluster of private turbines a public health nuisance; Falmouth voted in 2019 to dismantle two town-owned turbines after a court ordered them to stop spinning.
In 2019, Massachusetts got about 1 percent of its power from wind, according to the US Energy Information Administration.
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