From reading this newspaper, our seasonal neighbors, especially those who pay property taxes, must be baffled by why Falmouth’s finances are in such a shambles, forcing cuts in essential school staff, facilities and programs; incomplete road repair causing costly vehicle damage; delayed repair of the degraded Shining Sea Bikeway, et cetera. Yet, our municipal wind turbines continue to operate only 40 percent of the time, causing a loss in critical revenue of at least $1 million annually that could certainly benefit all Falmouth residents.
So, why has turbine operation been curtailed? Ten households from among the 199 properties within a half-mile of the turbines have filed lawsuits against Falmouth, claiming personal injury and loss of property value. One court action has led to a preliminary injunction to reduce municipal turbine operation based on the complaints, though none have been substantiated. Massachusetts DEP did find a slight noise exceedance at just one home, since challenged by an acoustics expert who noted that the noise range measured under the same study was greater with the turbines off as compared to off/on.
All scientific studies find no direct relationship between turbine operation and adverse impacts on health, including sleep disturbance. In fact, only 24 households or 12 percent of those 199 properties within a half-mile of the large turbines have issued complaints of any kind, some of which are sleep related. If all pertained to sleep loss, 12 percent is quite low compared to chronic sleep disorder nationwide at about 22 percent. See www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_us.htm.
After months of exacting review, completed last May, by the town’s zoning board of appeals of a neighbor’s nuisance complaint about one of the 1.65-megawatt wind turbines in Falmouth, the ZBA voted unanimously to dismiss that appeal due to a lack of evidence.
Now, let’s look at property values. A study conducted earlier this year by the University of Connecticut and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory that involved analysis of 122,000 property sales in Massachusetts found no adverse impact on them by wind turbines—none. See tinyurl.com/mass-wind-value. Homes in Falmouth near our wind turbines were included in that study, which also supports the findings of Falmouth’s department of assessing.
As one example, on July 8, 2014, the residence at 190 Fire Tower Road a half-mile from Wind 1 sold at 50 percent above assessed value (+$225,700) whereas the other 16 homes sold in Falmouth averaged 13 percent above assessed value (low -20 percent/high +36 percent) during July 7 through 11.
So why do the few neighbors who do complain, complain? The most plausible reason put forward by scientists is the nocebo effect which means symptoms caused solely by expectations. See 2014 study tinyurl.com/turbine-nocebo.
So, for those property taxpayers who are perplexed and don’t benefit from school and other year-around municipal services in Falmouth, much of the shortfall can be attributed to loss of revenue from clean, renewable energy production. Rest assured, though, that Falmouth’s leaders are steadfast in their effort to resolve this matter, including dismissal of the lawsuits and to maximize turbine operation as soon as possible. Our town, and our planet, will benefit from doing so.
Ronald D. Zweig