Conneaut will examine options regarding damaged turbine

City officials are weighing the fate of a lightning damaged wind turbine, located along the waterfront in Conneaut Harbor.

CONNEAUT — The owner of a damaged wind turbine that provides some of the electricity used at Conneaut’s sewage treatment plant wants a reworked contract with the city in order to make repairs financially feasible.

City Manager James Hockaday told City Council members at Monday night’s work session that NexGen is seeking a 10-year extension to the existing 10-year contract that will expire in 2020. The company says it needs a new contract to make repairs to the 400-kilowatt turbine — which has been idle since a lightning strike at the end of February.

Lighting blasted away one of the turbine’s blades and essentially destroyed its generator, Hockaday said. NexGen has said it will cost $250,000 to fix the machine, erected in January 2010.

To justify the expense, NexGen has submitted a contract proposal that would stretch the contract, set to expire in three years, through 2030. NexGen’s initial proposal calls for slight kilowatt-per-hour increases each of the contract years, officials have said.

The turbine supplies about 20 percent of the electricity used at the plant located along the Lake Erie shore.

In 2016, the city paid NexGen almost $59,000, according to information from the city finance office. In February, NexGen charged the city $11,135 for its services.

The city is not paying NexGen while the turbine is inoperable, Hockaday said.

Last year, the city paid NexGen a combined generation/distribution charge of 12 cents per kilowatt hour. In 2017, the seventh year of the 10-year original contract, the city is paying 12.5 cents per kWh, according to the finance office. NexGen’s combined charge will climb to 12.9 cents per kWh next year, topping out at 14 cents in 2020, per the contract.

Direct Energy has been the primary power supplier to the sewage plant, and is filling the void left by the turbine, officials said. Direct Energy this year is charging a combined 10 cents per kWh, Finance Director John Williams said at Monday’s meeting.

Hockaday told council the city has multiple options regarding the turbine, such as explore pricing available through conventional utilities, talk with other turbine operators or negotiate with NexGen.

“We can counter-offer (NexGen),” he said. “(The contract) is a proposal.”

Hockaday said he feels the turbine has merit. 

“Personally, I like the concept of a turbine,” he said.

The treatment plant already has the capability to convert some of the methane generated by the treatment process into heat. The turbine further cements the plant’s status as a “green” facility, he said.

“It’s a very utility-like plant,” Hockaday said.

Some council members were unhappy with NexGen’s stance on the turbine’s repair. Thomas Kozesky, whose Ward 4 includes the treatment plant, asked whether NexGen is obliged to fix the machine, regardless of cost.

“They’re not fulfilling the contract,” Kozesky said.

Councilman-at-large Jon Arcaro said the turbine, missing one of its three blades, is unattractive. 

“We’ve got an eyesore in our tourist area,” he said.

Hockaday said if the turbine can’t be made operational at a reasonable cost to the city, the contract can be voided and the turbine dismantled at NexGen’s cost.

An email sent NexGen seeking comment was not immediately answered Tuesday.

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