SEARSBURG – Two years after a combination of high winds and lightning knocked out a wind turbine, Green Mountain Power hopes to have the broken tower replaced by Dec. 31.
The 6-megawatt facility was built by GMP in 1997 using a $3 million grant from the Electric Power Research Institute and the Department of Energy, said Dorothy Schnure, spokeswoman for GMP.
In exchange for funding, GMP agreed to share data it collected from the operation of the facility with the rest of the industry. She said that at the time, most wind projects were in temperate climates, and there was a lack of information on how to run them in cold weather conditions.
The Searsburg project, she said, has provided data on lightning strikes, winter weather, and high wind conditions. The tower being replaced lost a blade to a lighting strike, which was replaced, she said, but the replacement blade wasn’t as structurally sound as the others and during a high-wind event in 2008, it came off and struck the tower, wrecking the entire structure.
The replacement tower is identical to the existing ones, she said. From ground to hub, each stands 132 feet high, while each blade is roughly 66 feet long. She said the exact timing of when the tower will be put up is dependent on the weather, but it is hoped the tower itself will be up prior to Thanksgiving.
Since the facility’s completion, the existing towers have been outfitted with equipment to reduce the amount of lightning strikes, she said.
Getting the new tower was a combination of luck and hard work, Schnure said, and took two years because towers that size are no longer being manufactured.
She said modern towers, like the one GMP has proposed for Lowell, are more than twice the size of the Searsburg facility, which itself may have a neighbor if Iberdrola Renewables gets approval from the Green Mountain National Forest to construct its proposed facility.
Schnure said the replacement tower was built by a company called Zond, now owned by GE, that is based in Tehachapi, Calif.
She said the tower will most likely be delivered by truck over Route 9 and down Route 8. The blades came through last week.
The entire facility puts out enough electricity to power 1,600 homes, Schnure said. With the new turbine, 550 more kilowatts will be available, which translates roughly to 138 homes.
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