Vocal Falmouth wind turbine opponent J. Malcolm Donald points to a letter he recently disseminated to many Falmouth residents and town officials via e-mail as evidence the town should not have erected the second turbine at the town’s wastewater treatment plant.

“It’s the smoking gun,” said the Ambleside Drive resident.

He said it is proof the town was warned in advance by the manufacturer of possible issues with erecting Wind 2.

The letter, dated August 3, 2010, is from the turbine’s contractor and seeks the town’s acknowledgment of the noise and other risks associated with erecting the turbine.

It states Solaya Energy, a division of Lumus Construction, is unable to move forward with signing a contract with turbine manufacturer Vestas without a signature from Gerald C. Potamis, Falmouth’s wastewater superintendent.

“The manufacturer [Vestas] also needs confirmation that the Town of Falmouth understands they are fully responsible for the site selection of the turbine and bear all responsibilities to address any mitigation needs of the neighbors,” writes Bruce Mabbott of Solaya Energy. “Please be advised should noise concerns arise with this turbine, the only option to mitigate normal operating sound from the V82 [turbine model] is to shut down the machine at certain wind speeds and direction.”

He further states that Vestas raised the possibility of ice throw concerns with the proximity of the turbine site to Route 28 and said precautions should be taken in weather that may cause icing.

Ice throw occurs when ice buildup on a turbine blade is dislodged during operation.

Mr. Mabbott also writes the town has previously been provided with octave band data/sound performance showing the turbine normally operates at 103.2 decibels, but that it can produce up to 110 decibels under certain circumstances.

This data is part of the V82 turbine’s specifications, which was spelled out in the contract with the town, Mr. Potamis said during an interview yesterday, October 6.

“This is not saying we’re exceeding the noise levels. This is not the same thing as measuring sound from someone’s house,” he said.

These issues outlined in the 2010 letter are some of the same concerns Mr. Donald, who lives near the turbines, shares.

Mr. Potamis responded the same day by writing a letter not to the construction company, but to the manufacturer, Vestas.

He wrote that the town “recognizes the published octave band data/sound performance for the V82; understands the option to mitigate sound from the turbine through curtailment of operation at certain wind speeds and direction will detrimentally effect power production; and recognizes the potential for ice throw from the turbines.

He states, “Please recognize that this letter is intended to communicate our understanding of the issues above and does not relieve our contractor or Vestas as the selected turbine supplier from the obligation to comply with requirements of the contract demands, including the requirements and procedures for equipment approval.”

“My letter simply says we knew what we were buying and you need to fulfill your contract,” Mr. Potamis said.

Complaints began shortly after the first turbine was erected four years ago. Neighbors voiced concerns over the noise of the turbine, the potential health impacts and possible decrease in their property values.

It led to the town conducting a noise study of the two turbines. Falmouth’s consultant Harris, Miller, Miller & Hanson of Burlington reported that the excess noise created by the two turbines would be within the state’s guidelines for all homes except two where there could be a possible violation.

Mr. Donald and others believe the study was flawed and hired their own firm to conduct a study, which concluded there were spikes in noise levels caused by the wind turbine that would peak above 40 decibels and then return below that level. 

Since then, a few residents have filed suits against the town.

Assistant town manager Heather B. Harper said she had not seen the Solaya letter at the time, and could not provide any further comments based on the ongoing litigation.

Updated October 8, 2014: According to Falmouth Board of Health Jared V. Goldstone a bylaw limiting noise to 40 decibels or below never existed in town. We removed the reference to it. 

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