NEWBURYPORT – For the first time since it went online eight years ago, the 292-foot-high wind turbine on Parker Street is being partly dismantled, but only temporarily.
“We’re actually taking down a portion of it for maintenance purposes. It’s the hub (center) at the top where the blades and rotor are. Ball bearings and other parts need to be replaced,” said Pam Fullerton, business development manager for Mark Richey Woodworking, which owns and operates the structure, on Monday.
“We originally planned to take it down today, but it’s a little too windy. Right now, we’re looking at Wednesday if the weather permits. Either way, it should be back up and operating by next week,” she said.
The turbine has been operating since 2009. Fullerton said this week it is the first time any part of the electricity-generating system has been brought to the ground for repairs. She pointed out that in the past, owner Mark Richey, who is a world-class mountain climber, has scaled the structure to clean the massive blades.
This time, Richey can’t take on this operation alone, and has enlisted the aid of a crane provided by Baldwin Cranes based in Wilmington, which is a subsidiary of Baldwin Energy, one of the premier wind turbine suppliers nationwide. Baldwin did the original turbine installation, Fullerton said.
Asked why the turbine hasn’t been running in recent days, Fullerton said it needed time to power down before the repairs could start.
“There’s also a lot of staging and prepping that has to be done,” she added.
The giant blades will get a thorough cleaning this time around once they are taken down.
“Mark will clean the blades himself by power-washing them,” she said.
Richey Woodworking receives 60 percent of its electricity from the wind system, said Fullerton. She noted that the facility is now 100 percent renewable-energy dependent, after solar panels were installed on the facility’s roof in 2016. The solar accounts for the other 40 percent, she said.
Richey, who has received several climbing awards in Europe and the United States and is a former president of the American Alpine Club, has scaled the structure in the past in order to keep it clean and running correctly. Facilities manager Mark Ort said back in 2015 the company wanted to avoid using a crane to work on the structure because it’s both an eyesore and expensive.
According to Fullerton, the turbine, which stands as the tallest structure on the Newburyport skyline, is inspected about every 10 days.
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