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Conneaut assessing damage from turbine lightning strike

CONNEAUT – Administrators in Conneaut are assessing damage to the city’s wastewater treatment plant caused by lightning that struck a wind turbine adjacent to the plant early Saturday morning.

The turbine, which supplements electricity used by the sewage plant, lost a blade when lightning hit about 1:30 a.m. Saturday. A power surge penetrated the plant and might have affected some equipment in the building, City Manager James Hockaday said Monday.

“We’re still waiting for a summary,” he said. “There is no cost estimate.”

Chunks of the shattered blade were strewn across a wide area, including Marina Drive, Hockaday said.

The turbine is no stranger to bolts from the blue. In August 2011, a lightning strike damaged a blade that was replaced several months later.

The 400-kilowatt turbine, perched at the edge of Lake Erie, was constructed in January 2010 by its owner, NexGen Energy of Boulder, Colorado. A 10-year contract obliges the city to purchase energy from NexGen for the plant for a 10-year period that expires in 2020.

NexGen’s turbine provides about 20 percent of the power used at the plant, officials have said. An email sent to NexGen on seeking comment was not immediately returned Monday.

Another NexGen wind turbine, a 600-kilowatt model adjacent to Conneaut Middle School on Gateway Avenue, has been idle for years. NexGen is suing the manufacturer, alleging parts were defective. The turbine, designed to provide electricity to CMS, never performed as planned since it went online in late 2009, according to the lawsuit, filed in 2013.

Repairs to the school turbine won’t happen until the lawsuit is settled, NexGen officials have said.