West Falmouth Harbor

Wind turbines tower up into the sky in a view of West Falmouth Harbor.

The Town of Falmouth plans on issuing requests for proposals by mid- to late December to have the two wind turbines at the wastewater treatment plant dismantled.

The news of momentum in removing the turbines came during the Monday night, November 22, select board meeting, when Finance Director Jennifer Mullen and special counsel Christopher Morog presented an update to board members.

The procurement process has been slowed by lack of precedence, Mr. Morog said. There is not a provision in state law for moving or taking turbines down, he said.

Ms. Mullen said the town recently received permission from the attorney general’s office to have the turbines dismantled using a certain section of law, Massachusetts General Law Chapter 30, Section 39M. It pertains to contracts for construction and materials.

“There is not a lot of precedent in the commonwealth on removing turbines,” Mr. Morog said. “It can turn into an expensive and time-consuming process…but fortunately they agreed to the 30 39M procurement, which does not require sub-bids and all kinds of additional coordination.”

The town is working with engineering firm Weston and Sampson on compiling a list of regional bidders for similar types of projects, Ms. Mullen said.

“UMass Dartmouth removed a turbine, so we contacted them and looked at bidders on that project. We want to engage as many bidders as we can,” she said.

After the town meets again with the state Clean Water Trust, the request for proposals will be issued and will remain open for 90 days.

“Because taking down turbines is not common in Massachusetts, or anywhere else for that matter in the US, we want a long bid window to engage as many interested parties to get the best price for the town,” Mr. Morog said.

The town had been working for a few years to find ways to either move the turbines for use elsewhere or dismantle and dispose of them completely. In 2020 the state rejected the town’s request under a specific law, Mass. General Law Chapter 25A, that would have made it easier to dismantle the turbines without costing millions of dollars more.

Town Counsel Frank Duffy told the select board at a meeting in 2020 that Massachusetts general laws provide for putting up turbines, but there is no provision for taking them down that does not require multiple layers of procurement processes and a lot of money. The town requested that the turbines be dismantled and listed the work as an “energy efficient project” to be bid under, which allows the town to send the project out to bid once instead of twice, but that was rejected by the state Department of Energy Resources.

Before going out to bid, the town will meet with Clean Water Trust, the state agency that loaned Falmouth $4.8 million for Wind 2.

“We need to meet with them again to...discuss the town’s financial liability and where we stand on paying off the grant,” Ms. Mullen said.

The town borrowed close to $5 million from the trust to erect Wind 2. That agreement states Falmouth would not owe principal or interest as long as Wind 2 remains operational and producing renewable energy. Because Wind 2 had operated in the past, the town’s obligation is reduced to $3.5 million from that $5 million.

Wind 1 was shut down in September 2015 after the zoning board of appeals issued a cease and desist order. Wind 2 was shut down in June 2017 after Barnstable County Superior Court Judge Cornelius J. Moriarty II upheld the ZBA’s decision deeming the turbines a nuisance after several neighbors filed lawsuits against the town.

The town is also working with energy company Eversource on the turbines’ connections into the wastewater treatment plant and the interconnection agreements that were executed a decade ago.

When the turbines were erected, they were integrated into the power delivery system at the plant and the town entered into the agreements with the power company that transferred some of the responsibility and liability for electrical equipment to the town.

“We want to make sure removal of the turbines does not interfere with electricity of the wastewater plant,” Ms. Mullen said. “The goal is to have Eversource maintain those connections again.”

Mr. Morog explained that the net metering process included connecting the turbines to the plant using various transformers and lines. Now that they are going to be removed, lines will have to be cut and capped and some of the transformers and main feeds into the plant will need upgrading, he said.

“The best way to deal with that is when the town makes upgrades to the plant, and hopefully Eversource can take back control of the equipment,” he said.

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