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Lightning storm may have damaged Scituate turbine

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  June 27, 2013 11:20 AM

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The blades on Scituate's 400-foot-tall wind turbine stopped spnning this week, following a lightning storm that may have damaged some of the electrical equipment inside the machine Monday night.

“I’m not 100 percent sure if it was caused by a fluctuation in the grid or if it was a lightning strike, but it’s very possible that it was hit by lightning,” said Sumul Shah, owner and operator for Scituate’s turbine affiliate, Solaya Energy LLC.

He said the damage was minor and the turbine would be back in operation in a day or two.

A computer chip inside the machine would indicate definitively whether the turbine was hit, Shah said. Those data are still being analyzed.

Yet for nearby residents, there wasn’t much question.

In a statement distributed by neighbors who have opposed the citing of Scituate's turbine, Moorland Road resident Seana Cahoon said she observed an amazing lightning show around the turbine, with bright bolts zig-zagging across the sky all around the tall structure.

“I couldn’t imagine that it hadn’t been struck given all that activity,” she said.

Michelle Banning, who lives on Gilson Road, even heard the sounds of a lightning strike.

“We heard a terrible crack/ground rumble somewhere close-by indicating a strike last night,” Banning said in an email Tuesday morning.

Shah conceded that it’s not out of the question that the machine might have been hit.

“It’s a 300-foot-tall pole made of metal. It’s likely to be hit by lightning. It's one of the taller structures [around],” Shah said.

Regardless of what caused the electrical shortage, Shah said the only parts of the machine damaged were the easily replaceable fuses.

Crews are going through each electrical system of the turbine to ensure nothing else was damaged before replacing any components, Shah said on Thursday.

“We don’t just want to pop in fuses,” Shah said. “If there are some other damages, it will damage [the fuses] again. So we’re going through each system and checking it out.”

Shah also said the repairs are covered under the turbine manufacturer’s warrenty.

"We have the parts, I haven’t seen any indication of any significant damage. I wouldn’t think it would be that costly," Shah said.

The machine was still off-line as of Thursday. Shah estimated it would be another day or two before things could be turned back on.

Yet all indications from the machine were that things worked exactly as anticipated during the storm, Shah said.

“The turbine has lightning protection built in, has receptors to receive it, grounders to ground it, and fuses to protect the electronic systems from getting damaged. At this point it looked like everything worked as it should have,” he said.

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