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Falmouth selectmen, town meeting continue to tangle over wind turbines

Human impacts, News, Wind turbines Add comments

Two town meeting votes, along with a short-lived wind turbine plan adopted by the local board of selectmen, kept things blustery in meeting rooms as well as in the springtime air of Falmouth this month.  A large number of people living within a half mile to mile of the two town-owned turbines have been struggling with noise issues, and the town has tried a few different approaches designed to reduce the problems, including shutting down the turbines in high winds.

Just before this year’s town meeting, the board of selectmen adopted yet another curtailment plan that they hoped would make things more livable while they tried to find some sort of consensus moving forward.  The plan would have shut down one turbine anytime the wind topped 10 m/s, and would have increased the cut-in speed of the other between midnight and 3am, from 3.5m/s to 8m/s (this to address the fact that in the still of night, wind noise from the blades can be troublesome even at low speeds).  These curtailments would be in place until May 15, after which both turbines would be shut down all night (1opm to 6am) until the end of June.  Apparently the hope was that a new long-term plan might be in place by then; the Consensus Building Institute of Cambridge is nearing completion of an information-gathering process that included 53 local stakeholders (see their draft report here).

However, two articles were up for a vote at the annual town meeting which stretched across several nights later that week.  The first called for both turbines to be shut down until November, and it passed 100-75.  A few minutes later, a supposedly competing article calling for the selectmen to continue their efforts to build consensus toward finding a solution on what to do with the machines passed by a vote of 93-74, leading the town meeting moderator and at least one selectman to wonder how to reconcile the two.  Without seeing the text, I can’t say for sure, but it doesn’t seem on the surface that the two initiatives are contrary; the work toward a long-term consensus can continue whether the turbines are operating in the meantime or not. Certainly, the process recommended by the Consensus Building Institute is likely to take much longer than from now until the end of June (in short, they recommend that a local committee sketch out a variety of options, without recommending any one; the goal would be to provide selectmen with “a clear, comprehensive, and inclusive analysis of the range of options, their costs and benefits, and their impacts.”

This article in the Falmouth Enterprise offers a detailed blow-by-blow account of some of the more contentious aspects of the recent town meeting debate.

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