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Scituate

Lightning may have damaged turbine

The wind turbine in Scituate.

Jessica Bartlett for The Boston Globe/File

The wind turbine in Scituate.

The blades on Scituate’s 400-foot-tall wind turbine have stopped spinning, following a lightning storm that may have damaged some of the electrical equipment inside the structure 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 of Scituate’s turbine affiliate, Solaya Energy LLC.

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He said the damage was minor, and crews will work on the turbine through the weekend. Operations are expected to resume this week.

A computer chip in the machine can show definitively whether the turbine was hit by lightning, Shah said, but workers need to repair other components before retrieving the chip.

For nearby residents, however, there wasn’t much question.

In a statement distributed by opponents of Scituate’s turbine, Moorland Road resident Seana Cahoon said she observed an amazing lightning show around the turbine Monday, with bright bolts zigzagging 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 e-mail 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, easily replaceable fuses appear to be the only parts that were damaged.

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

“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 warranty.

“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.

All the evidence indicates 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.

Jessica Bartlett can be reached at jessica.may.bartlett@ gmail.com.
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