Several dozen people filled the lower conference room at Bourne Town Hall during the Bourne Board of Health meeting on December 10 to voice their opinion on a proposed Plymouth wind farm that would border Bournedale. Most of the residents spoke in opposition to the project brought before the board by cranberry farm owner Keith A. Mann.
Mr. Mann is the founder of Future Generation Wind, a company he started about three years ago. His plan is to install four wind turbines on his family’s cranberry farm in Plymouth. The turbines would generate electricity that he would then sell to NStar for energy credits. He would then resell those credits to customers who would apply them to their NStar bills. Mr. Mann currently has an agreement in place with Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical School, as well as Old Colony School District, Old Rochester School District and the towns of Marion and Rochester.
He was asked to appear before the board of health because his project would front some Bourne properties and have an impact on homeowners.
Prior to Mr. Mann’s presentation to the board, health board chairman Kathleen M. Peterson told the audience that there would be no discussion about the overall health or safety concerns of wind turbines in general. Ms. Peterson explained that those discussions had already been held in prior public hearings, which led to the town’s establishing a set of regulations governing construction and operation of wind turbines. She said the only matter to be discussed was whether Mr. Mann’s project met those regulations.
Residents, however, frequently veered away from Ms. Peterson’s charge to bring up health problems that have been associated with turbines. Health issues that have been reported include sleep deprivation, nausea, headaches and depression.
John T. McMahon of Morning Mist Lane in Buzzards Bay was outraged that Mr. Mann was even considering his project. Mr. McMahon held in his hand a report from the Falmouth Board of Health that showed 47 people suffering from health problems due to wind turbines.
“Are you for real? This is crazy. I get all emotional because I know what’s coming. Haven’t we learned anything from the Town of Falmouth?” he said.
The problems result from the noise caused by the spinning blades of the turbines and the shadow flicker made when they spin, according to several people at the meeting. Mr. Mann agreed that the health concerns are rational and reasonable and assured the board and the audience that he would work with any neighbor who believes they are being adversely affected by his project. He said that studies have shown only one home that could be affected by flicker and a nearby tree could help mitigate any trouble. He also said that the noise issue has been associated with older model turbines. The equipment he plans to install is updated and does not generate the same amount of noise.
Mr. Mann spoke of the wind turbine on the campus of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy and said the noise it makes is akin to everyday ambient sound, such as ocean waves, traffic and boats on the water. He said he spoke with a number of residents in Taylor’s Point, near the MMA campus, and no one said the turbine was a problem.
One resident of Buzzards Bay said that he had also canvassed people who lived near MMA, and everyone said the turbine did not bother them.
Robert Stack of Morning Mist Lane said that his son went to MMA and the turbine did pose problems. Douglas W. Manter, also known as Chief Little Bear of the Herring Pond Wampanoag Indian Tribe, said he had recently asked several MMA people at a Dunkin’ Donuts about the turbines.
“They said, ‘Don’t ask us because we’re afraid to say anything. We don’t want to get into trouble,’ ” he said.
Ms. Peterson noted that simply because there were no complaints about MMA’s turbine, it did not mean the board had to approve Mr. Mann’s project. She also attempted several times to bring the discussion back to whether Mr. Mann’s proposal met the regulations established by the town for wind turbines.
“You can’t tell me that you can comply with each and every component of these regulations, or you will have to apply for a variance,” she said.
Mr. Mann pointed out that he had already been permitted by the Town of Plymouth and his wind farm was not a Bourne project. Ms. Peterson replied that his farm will affect properties in Bourne.
Ms. Peterson ended the discussion after more than an hour, with no determination as to whether Mr. Mann’s project met town regulations or if he would need to seek a variance from the board.