The troubled giant wind turbine on the grounds of Applied Materials’ Varian Semiconductor Associates has been temporarily shut down for an extended period for the second time in the past 22 months, a company spokesman acknowledged Wednesday.
While the the blades of the 492-foot behemoth – the largest of the three turbines that tower over Gloucester’s Blackburn Industrial Park – will likely remain still until late August or into September, they should once again spin at full speed once a maintenance and repair project is completed, said Ricky Gradwohl, Applied’s head of corporate communications.
“We had to temporarily turn it off so we could perform some maintenance on it and replace some parts,” Gradwohl said. He added that work crews to carry out the maintenance and part replacement project will be arriving within the next month.
“But once they’re gone, the turbine should be operating again,” he said. He did not disclose which parts need replacement; the turbine has been still for at least the past two weeks.
The shutdown comes nearly a year after the company took steps to replace an oil pump motor within the turbine’s nacelle and brought it back up to full capacity last July 27. The nacelle is the casing that holds the motor behind the giant rotor, and the problems had forced a shutdown of the turbine for much of the previous 10 months, with the system operating only occasionally after the company carried out a temporary fix in May 2016.
Applied officials, however, have said the turbine has saved the company up to $1 million in annual energy costs since it was first installed in December 2012, and it produces about 30 percent of the Varian campus’s electricity while reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 34 percent.
The turbine was the first of the three installed at Blackburn, with the other two launched in early 2013. Those turbines operate under a shared plan that generates power and financial credits for the city of Gloucester through Equity Partners of Needham, which built the turbines, and utility giant National Grid.
Applied Materials, based in Santa Clara, California, remains Gloucester’s largest employer, with some 1,200 people now holding down jobs between the Blackburn facility and another building the company utilizes off Pond Road.
In its most recent quarterly report, released in May, the company reported a net sales increase of 45 percent to $3.55 billion from the previous three-month period, while the company generated $898 million in cash from operations and returned $390 million to shareholders through stock repurchases and cash dividends.
“Applied Materials delivered the highest quarterly revenue and earnings in our history, and we’ve now set new earnings records for four quarters in a row,” said Gary Dickerson, the Applied president and CEO who previously served as Varian’s Gloucester CEO before its acquisition by Applied in 2011. “Across the company, we have tremendous momentum as our markets are strong and getting stronger, and we’re sustainably growing fasterthan these markets by expanding our served opportunity and gaining share.”
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