Conneaut's harbor roads reopen after turbine scare

Contractors hired by the city of Conneaut were able to stablize the blades on Friday and reopen Broad Street Extension to traffic. The road was blocked after heavy winds created a potentially dangerous situation.

BY BRIAN HAYTCHER

bhaytcher@starbeacon.com

CONNEAUT — Roads in the harbor opened again on Friday after being closed for a day and a half due to potential danger from a damaged wind turbine.

The turbine was struck by lightning in 2017, which destroyed one of the turbine’s blades. The lightning strike also partially melted the turbine’s gearbox, City Manager Jim Hockaday said.

“When it blew hard enough on Wednesday, it broke loose whatever temporary kind of weld it had,” Hockaday said.

Contractors hired by the city locked the turbine’s blades in place on Friday, and Lakeside Drive was reopened after the procedure was finished. 

The road closure was done because of “an abundance of caution,” Hockaday said.

Conneaut entered into an agreement with NexGen Energy Partners and Conneaut Wind for the purposes of adding a wind turbine next to the city’s waste water treatment plant. The school district also entered into an agreement with the same company for a turbine next to Conneaut Middle School.

The turbine at the wastewater treatment plant was struck by lightning in February 2017, destroying one of the blades and damaging the internal workings of the turbines. NexGen offered to repair the turbine, but only if the city entered into a new power purchase agreement with NexGen. At the time, NexGen said the new agreement would help offset the cost of repairing the turbine.

Conneaut filed suit against NexGen and Conneaut City Wind in 2018, according to court records, alleging that the companies had abandoned the turbine, and giving the city the right to demolish the turbine if NexGen and CCW did not remove it within 60 days. The case was dismissed at the request of the city in December 2018.

The school district has had issues with the turbine at CMS. It has has malfunctioned since it was installed, and NexGen has been in a years-long legal fight with the manufacturer.

Earlier this year, the city published a request for proposals, inviting companies to provide quotes for removal of the turbine, or suggestions of another beneficial use.

The lowest price for the removal of the turbine was around $173,000, which will be included in the city’s 2020 budget proposal, Hockaday said.

The wastewater treatment plant functioned throughout the situation, but employees were advised to stay away from the turbine, Hockaday said.

The city recently received its no feasible alternatives study for the wastewater treatment plant, which will require the city to construct a third clarifier, Hockaday said. The only available site for that clarifier is where the turbine currently sits, he said. Currently, what is likely to happen is that the turbine will be demolished, and then the concrete slab below it will be demolished at some later point in preparation for the clarifier, Hockaday said.

“To replace it, it would be a full rebuild, with the exception of the tower. So pretty much everything that’s part of the turbine in there is pretty much junk,” Hockaday said.

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