Although no longer spinning, Falmouth’s two wind turbines may continue to draw upon town coffers for years to come.
To erect Wind 1, officials borrowed about $5 million and promised the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center what are known as renewable energy certificates. To pay for Wind 2, officials received a $4.865 million loan from the Massachusetts Water Pollution Abatement Trust.
Those agreements still stand, even if the turbines—ordered shut down by a Barnstable County Superior Court judge in late June—fail to generate electricity. Falmouth must pay $385,000 annually for the next 12 years for the loan for Wind 1, said Town Manager Julian M. Suso. Additionally, by failing to generate renewable energy certificates, town hall owes MassCEC $110,000 annually for another 15 years.
Combined, the amount owed reaches $6,270,000.
That does not include the $4.865 million given to Falmouth by the Massachusetts Water Pollution Abatement Trust, now known as the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust, for Wind 2. Those dollars went to Falmouth as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 with the principal and interest forgiven as long as the project continued to be “energy efficient,” Mr. Suso said.
That is an impossibility given the board of selectmen’s July 10 decision not to appeal the superior court judge’s ruling that the pair of turbines constituted a nuisance to neighbors. Officials with the trust previously indicated the money must be repaid if the turbine stops operating.
If so, the trust likely would demand interest as well, an amount that remains undetermined, Mr. Suso said.
Altogether, that amounts to more than $11,135,000 without accounting for legal costs. The two 397-foot Vestas turbines have long served as the subject of litigation. Neighbors filed lawsuits alleging the machines negatively affected their health and accusing town officials of failing to secure the proper permits to erect the pair. Several have filed for damages as a result.
In November, Town Meeting agreed to transfer $260,000 to the town counsel’s budget to address three cases involving the turbines.
Selectmen addressed the financial circumstances while announcing the decision not to appeal, saying “we know there would be substantial costs associated with taking down the turbines in addition to the lost electricity generated by both Wind 1 and Wind 2 as well as the looming debt associated with not running the turbines.”
“These are real numbers and those liabilities have real impact on our community services and resources,” the statement read.
Chairman Susan L. Moran said Wednesday, July 19, that the board of selectmen will begin holding executive sessions—closed to the public—dedicated solely to the issue during regularly scheduled board meetings. What to do with the turbines now that they are no longer operating also remains an unanswered question.
“We’re putting continuous thought and effort into resolving this,” she said.