Falmouth MA — Getting Screwed Over by the State Again

October 31, 2020 

Falmouth MA — Getting Screwed Over by the State Again

Falmouth’s Board of Selectmen heard status updates from staff and a special attorney specializing in Litigation and Construction & Public Contracts law regarding the disposition of the town’s two industrial wind turbines Monday Oct 26.  At the end of the discussion, the board frustratingly agreed that they are not even close to seeing the turbines dismantled.

It’s become a complex situation to say the least.  Two economic sticking points present major obstacles to removing the turbines.  

  1. The state determined that Falmouth’s plan to dismantle, store and then potentially lease at least one of Falmouth’s two turbines to another host community/developer, could not be conducted under the governance of Mass General Law 25A (which authorizes a local governmental body [“public entity”] to contract directly with contractors/suppliers for “energy conservation projects”).  Essentially, the 25A avenue would have allowed Falmouth to conduct all phases (dismantling design, dismantling, storage and then potentially disposal of town property to be relocated to another site which would require engineering design- site work- permitting- interface with grid utilities and construction contract) under one procurement process.  The phased project does not meet the eligibility requirements of MGL 25A so said the state.  This “curve-ball” will cause a myriad of procurement, disposal and relocation issues and involve additional significant costs (town manager estimated $5-10M) .  Essentially the town will have to go through separate procurement processes for each phase of the project. It was further pointed out by town staff that a serious consideration needs to be taken to whether there is enough value in the turbines to go through all those upfront cost of each procurement process.
  2. The Massachusetts Clean Water Trust (Wind 2 loan agreement signatory) determined the town’s outstanding obligation on Wind 2 loan — $3.5 million.  Wind 2 no long satisfies one the primary condition of the original $5 million grant – to operate as a renewal energy resource- (ordered off by the court due to nuisance) and thereby converted to a loan.  According to town manager the Clean Water Trust will not give a determination of any relief of debt burden until Falmouth presents specifics of all agreements between the future host community/developer(s).  However, it was noted, to satisfy this and accomplish reaching contractual agreements involving relocation to an out-of-town host, a procurement process would need to be commenced.  Which, it was further explained, will be a long-shot at best in finding a group that would be interested in a turbine(s) with only 10 years of useful life left on the turbines.

Simply to take down the turbines, even if all other separate phases and procurement processes are determined by selectmen to be too costly relative the remaining value of the turbines, will require special legislation from the state.  Special legislation specifically approving the 300-acre wastewater plant for wind turbines was originally required in 2009.  Special legislation specifically authorizing their removal will also be required.              

 Selectmen D. Jones captured the board’s sentiments best.  

“They’ve sold us a bill of goods.  The state is the one that dumped these turbines on us.  They’ve set us all up for this.  And the fact now that they’re not willing to help us get out of it after our community stepped up and supported this, being at the forefront of this.  And now we’re getting screwed over by the state again.  It’s just completely infuriating that this is what they’re doing”  


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