MIDDLETOWN – As he stood in the parking lot of his Easton Pond Business Center, the moment was bittersweet for Blake Henderson.
After more than a year of trying to get the 120-foot-tall wind turbine in the Aquidneck Corporate Park going again, Henderson said it was tough to see it being removed – despite all the problems it caused.
The turbine had its admirers and detractors since it was installed in September 2009. At the time, Henderson said the turbine would help offset the power usage at the business center, something it accomplished. However, because the unit broke, Henderson said it never paid off financially.
“We were sold something that was supposed to last forever and what we got was something much different,” Henderson said. “They have 500 of these in operation all over and I happened to get the lemon. I thought I had better luck than that.”
Henderson said it appears the turbine was struck by lightning, something not covered by insurance. Earlier this year, the town of Middletown sent a letter asking the turbine be removed or replaced because it wasn’t spinning.
A crew with PowerGrid Partners of Oregon, Ohio, was in the process Tuesday morning of dismantling the turbine, which will be loaded onto two flatbed trucks, trucked away, refurbished and then reinstalled at an undetermined location.
“I was really proud of it, proud of what we were trying to accomplish,” Henderson said. “This was a grand experiment in small-scale wind production. It just didn’t work out the way I had hoped.”
Still a believer in alternative energy, Henderson said he’s looking into a solar project at the business center on John Clarke Road. He said Northern Power Systems – the turbine manufacturer – was paying to have the old turbine removed.
“There comes a time when you have to cut your loses,” Henderson said. “It was beyond economically feasible for me to repair it, especially when you’re looking at an expected cost of $130,000 to $170,000 more than what I’ve already spent on it to repair it.”
Kenny Ridley of PowerGrid was leading a team of workers who were taking the turbine apart on Tuesday. Ridley said what happened with the Middletown turbine was very unusual.
“I’d definitely say it was uncommon,” Ridley said. “This is the first turbine I’ve personally had to take apart like this.”
Crews removed the turbine in sections, with the rotor blades being the first to go.
Crane operator Derek Moniz of North American Crane & Rigging of Providence said the tower consisted of three pieces, totaling about 30,000 pounds. Each section would be carefully secured to his large yellow-and-black crane and taken down. Later, they would be packed together onto a flatbed and trucked away.
Ridley said once the turbine is refurbished, it will be resold and erected elsewhere. On Tuesday, he said he didn’t know where it was going or when.
“It’s hard to tell what happened here,” Ridley said. “It could be any number of things: the moisture, a lack of grease, the lightning strike – it’s hard to tell for sure.”
Despite the failure of this turbine, Ridley said they are the wave of the future along with other forms of alternative energy.
“We need more of them, not less,” Ridley said.
Henderson said if he could do it all over again, he’d go solar.
“With turbines, as I found out the hard way, there are too many moving parts,” Henderson said. “The one we got was supposed to be the best and it didn’t turn out that way. I can’t say I’m angry about it, more disappointed.”
And if solar were more affordable, Henderson said he’d be on board now.
“Alternative energy, it’s the future,” Henderson said. “I have hope that it can become more viable across the board. The way things are heading, I think I’m going to have to install an electric car-charging station here. That’s a good thing. We’re finally heading in the right direction.”