PERU -- In the lead-up to an important town vote on a proposed wind development, residents are hosting two Falmouth residents who fled their town after three wind turbines began operating there in 2010.
Sue and Ed Hobart, who say living near three 400-foot turbines in Falmouth caused them to suffer negative health impacts, will take part in an informational meeting at 6:30 tonight at the Community Center.
"They're going to be speaking about their experiences in Falmouth," resident John DiTomasso said.
Peru has been identified in state reports as having the best onshore wind energy potential in the state, and one developer already has filed an application to build a wind farm in the community. Lightship Energy, based in Acton, is seeking a permit to build five, 500-foot turbines between Haskell and Garnet hills off Curtin Road on two parcels owned by David Forrest and Kenneth and Lonnie Hall.
The Peru Select Board scheduled a special town meeting for Nov. 4 in response to concerns from residents about the potential impact of wind energy projects in the community. Residents will decide whether to support a two-year moratorium on wind energy projects, including the Lightship proposal -- which came after the moratorium initiative.
"I want to say it's close to 50-50 at this point, but everybody has concerns," said Peru Select Board Chairman Douglas Haskins Sr. "I do too. I'm a Selectman, of course, but these towers would be going in right behind my house." Haskins lives on Curtin Road.
Some residents have formed a group, Peru Concerned Citizens, in response to the Lightship proposal. Members of the group say the jury remains out on the ill effects -- headaches, vertigo, sleep interruption and more -- reported by people who live near industrial-sized turbines. A two-turbine development in Falmouth prompted a huge outcry residents who lived close nearby when it began operating in 2010.
A state report conducted in 2012 on the health impacts of living near wind turbines found no conclusive evidence of such claims.
Proponents of the project say renewable energy developments are needed in the state, particularly if Gov. Deval Patrick's ambitious goal -- 2,000 megawatts of wind energy before 2020 -- is to be met. They also point to the tax revenue for the town and reducing its dependence on Western Massachusetts Electric Co. and National Grid.
Lightship estimates the town could gain between $100,000 and $150,000 per year in tax revenue by allowing the turbines. If built, they'd generate 15 megawatts of energy and become the tallest turbines in the state.
But DiTomasso, a member of Peru Concerned Citizens, said Lightship Energy would place its turbines close to houses if permitted. Some families live within 2,000 feet of where the company hopes to operate.
That would comply with the town's wind energy bylaw, adopted in 2005, which says turbines must be at least 750 feet away from a home.
"One of the reasons to vote for the moratorium is it would give us time to look more closely at the wind bylaw the town adopted in 2005," DiTomasso said. "Things have changed since then. Some areas of our bylaw are really lacking."
DiTomasso also said turbines can negatively impact the values of nearby homes.
He encouraged anyone who's interested to attend tonight's meeting.
"Right now we're focused on getting the word out in the community," he said. "We hope [the moratorium] passes but we're not counting on anything."
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