Winds of discontent in Scituate
David Dardi had been away from Scituate for months.
After spending the winter in Florda, Dardi was driving back to his Gilson Road home after a late-night flight in June when he saw red, flashing lights.
He gave it little thought, Dardi said, as he made his way home. Then the following morning, Dardi looked through the trees and saw the white blades of the town’s new wind turbine off in the distance.
“I left in October of 2011, and I came back in June of this year, and there it was,” said Dardi, whose house sits about 3,100 feet from the power-generating turbine. “I thought, ‘Who . . . put that ugly thing there? What a monstrosity.’
“My first reaction was some do-good yuppie who went to business school decided it’s the thing to do, because we have to have alternate sources of energy, with a total disregard of the heritage of the community, the North River, and what it will do to the community.”
Now he wants the town to take down the turbine.
Throughout the six-year saga that led to the $6 million turbine, owned by Solaya Energy LLC, being set up on town-leased land on the Driftway, Scituate officials have touted its benefits in saving both energy and money. The turbine’s massive parts rolled into town amid great fanfare in February, when more than 1,000 people turned out to sign one of the blades before it was attached to the tower.
Town officials say the vast majority of residents are thrilled with the turbine, which began operating in March But as the comments of Dardi and some other neighbors show, the sentiment isn’t unanimous.
Dardi said he’s dismayed not only by the turbine’s size — 400 feet from base to blade tip — but also that he didn’t even know it was going up. A retired engineer, Dardi had been out of town for more than five years taking care of his ill mother. When he returned to Scituate last summer, he was dealing with cancer himself.
“Now I’m ready to live the rest of my life and here is this windmill in my backyard!” he said.
Dardi is upset not only by the turbine’s impact on the landscape, but by the whooshing noise that he says creeps into his bedroom two or three nights a week and wakes him up.
Living more than a half-mile from the turbine, Dardi said, he initially couldn’t believe it would make an audible noise, “but the reality is, it does.
“If I close the windows, I can’t hear it, but then I don’t get any breeze,” he said. “The whole point of this house was the windows that face the southwest . . . when it’s hot, the wind is from the southwest. That’s when it makes the noise, and that’s when I want the windows open.”
Nancy Melvin, who lives at 131 Driftway, has a similar complaint.
“We underestimated the effects of the turbine,” she said.
Her house is approximately 300 feet from the turbine, Melvin said, and the effects vary depending on the strength and direction of the wind. Regardless, when the world quiets down at night and there is less traffic on the roads, the noise of the turbine is apparent.
Melvin and her husband had not opposed the turbine’s construction. “We didn’t want to be the ones who said, ‘Not in my backyard,’ ’’ she said, but now, “he’s kept up at least two nights a week, or woken up and can’t get back to sleep.”
Melvin said her family still supports the town’s goal of generating alternative energy. But, she added, “We’re hoping that the town will listen and that they will be sensitive. We were trying to be tolerant of this. We just didn’t think there was going to be any impact.”
Linda Alvarez, who lives on Collier Road, said she has talked to 10 of her neighbors who hear the turbine at night, and all of them are upset about it.
“They don’t call it a windmill — it’s a turbine,’’ she said. “It’s not just a whoosh, whoosh; it’s a jet engine.”
Alvarez also feels the town didn’t properly inform residents about the turbine as it was going up.
“Maybe we weren’t paying that much attention, which is possible, but when your neighbor puts up an addition, you get a letter and there is a meeting. We thought for something that would impact so many people, we thought there would be more from the town to the people . . . who were impacted,” she said.
Selectman Rick Murray, an oceanography professor at Boston University, acknowledged that under the right conditions, residents might be able to hear the turbine. But he scoffed at the idea that townspeople weren’t informed.
“The wind turbine was discussed for many years. We had multiple public meetings at the selectmen level as well as at the renewable energy commission. It was covered thoroughly by . . . all the newspapers. For people to say they were unaware that a turbine was going to be installed belies common sense and fact.”
As for the noise, Murray, who lives in the Third Cliff section of town, said, “I have not heard anything, nor would I expect to. I’m also surprised that people can hear it, because it’s very far away. But on the other hand, I haven’t gone out at 2 in the morning. Sound does travel over water,” he said.
Murray said he hadn’t heard of such complaints, and he urged residents to tell the town if they are having problems. As for how the town would respond, Murray wasn’t sure.
“If there is a legitimate concern or point, let us know about it. Mitigation depends on what the concern is,” Murray said. “But I’m concerned when people say, ‘Take it down.’ Be realistic.”
Because Dardi is the only one who has complained to the town about the turbine, Al Bangert, director of Scituate’s Department of Public Works, said noise isn’t an issue.
Furthermore, most residents are in favor of the turbine, he said, especially after hearing of the benefits.
The turbine produces electricity that goes into the power grid. The town receives a credit from National Grid that is 5 cents higher per kilowatt hour than the rate that Solaya charges the town to produce it. Overall, the town is reaping a credit of $200,000 a year.
Although the turbine doesn’t provide electricity to the town directly, the energy produced by the turbine pays for about half of Scituate’s municipal power needs.
Bangert also noted the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, saying the turbine is taking the equivalent of 600 cars off the road, saving 330,000 gallons of oil, and eliminating 6.5 million pounds of carbon dioxide per year.
Like the Greenbush commuter rail line, which affects some residents more than others, the turbine was installed for the greater good, Bangert said.
“It’s improving the environment and making a positive statement about Scituate — being a community that cares about its environment,” he said.
Still, Dardi said, he hopes to band together with others residents and see what can be done about the turbine. There is the potential for a class-action lawsuit, he said, though nothing has been decided.
“I think we have to consume less energy first before we start destroying our environment like that,” Dardi said.
Jessica Bartlett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.