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R.I. company gets $1.15m to develop wind turbine-protecting paint

Arctura Inc. is tasked with figuring out a way to help reduce damage from lightning strikes

The GE-Alstom Block Island Wind Farm stands in the water off Block Island, Rhode Island, U.S., on Wednesday, Sept, 14, 2016.Eric Thayer/Bloomberg

PROVIDENCE — A South Kingstown, Rhode Island company will get a $1.15 million federal grant to test out a paint product it says will help reduce one of the biggest pain points in the wind power industry: lightning strikes.

“The ultimate objective here is to get it on all future new wind turbines,” Arctura Inc. owner Neal Fine said in an interview. “We’ve got a long way to go to get there, but that’s our vision.”

The vision got a $1.15 million boost last week in the form of a U.S. Department of Energy Small Business Innovation Research grant.

The money will help Arctura pilot test the product, which is as simple as an off-the-shelf top coat mixed with what Fine calls Arctura’s proprietary “magic pixie dust.”


They’ll do some testing on existing wind farms, mostly in Texas and Oklahoma where lightning poses a big risk, Fine says. Offshore wind farms also do get struck by lightning, and it’s expensive to fix, but they are focusing more on on-shore. According to Arctura, the losses from lightning strikes on wind turbines amount to more than $100 million annually.

In technical terms, the paint product works by promoting the formation of ionization channels over the surface of the turbines, helping lightning safely reach the ground instead of causing blade punctures.

In lay terms, it can help the already-existing lightning protection technology in wind turbines work more effectively.

They have not gone to market yet with the product, called ArcGuide, and two others — one an algorithm, the other a technology akin to a plane’s wing flaps — are also in the pipeline. The company started in 2015.

Brian Amaral can be reached at Follow him @bamaral44.