BOSTON (AP) — A Cape Cod town that once considered its first wind turbine the crowning achievement of its climate protection plan came close to becoming the first community in the country to decide to tear its turbines down.
Falmouth's Town Meeting voted down a measure Tuesday night that would have authorized borrowing $14 million to dismantle two turbines.
The measure failed by a vote of 125-72. Town Clerk Michael Palmer said it needed a two-thirds majority to pass. If it had been approved, the borrowing question would have been put before voters in a May referendum.
The Falmouth selectmen's board chair, Kevin Murphy, flatly calls the turbine project a failure. The board is backing efforts to dismantle the original turbine, which began spinning in 2010, and a newer one.
From the start, neighbors have complained about noise from the turbines. They also attribute a range of physical and mental health problems to them.
But other residents report no problems. Some in town say it's far too soon to tear down a critical renewable energy project they estimate could produce $450,000 in annual revenue through energy production and renewable energy certificates.
"It's pit neighbor against neighbor," Murphy said.
The American Wind Energy Association, which says it promotes wind energy as a clean source of electricity, said it's the first time any town has considered taking down its turbines. That's because such projects have such clear financial and environmental rewards, spokeswoman Ellen Carey said.
"People across the country are supportive of wind energy and are benefiting economically," she said.
Both turbines are built at the town's waste water treatment plant and provide power for it. The original turbine was the first municipal utility-scale turbine in Massachusetts.
Falmouth resident Mark Cool, who lives near the turbine site, said persistent headaches started as soon as it began running. He described some so penetrating he felt he needed "to drill a hole in my head to get some sort of relief."
The 54-year-old air traffic controller didn't link the turbines to his headaches until his neighbors began talking about similar symptoms.
Cool began a journal, recording variables such as wind direction and headache duration, eventually concluding the headaches occurred only when the wind put him in a turbine's wake.