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Conneaut mulls legal action in turbine case

CONNEAUT – The city of Conneaut has not ruled out legal remedies regarding the wind turbine at the lakefront that has been inoperable for more than a year, Law Director Kyle Smith said this week.

“The city is reviewing its legal options and we will have a recommendation for (City Council),” he said.

At issue is the 400-kilowatt turbine adjacent to the city’s sewage treatment plant severely damaged by a lightning strike in February 2017. The blast shattered one of the turbine’s blades and heavily damaged its generator, officials said last year.

Smith said the city is still trying to track down the rightful owner of the towering turbine. The machine was installed in

2010 by NexGen Energy of Colorado, but it appears another company has taken ownership, Smith said.

Smith declined to identify the company, citing confidentiality considerations. Efforts to contact the company have been unsuccessful, Smith said.

“We’re writing the company involved and not getting much in the way of a response,” he said. “It’s been difficult to get a response.”

In 2010, the city entered into a 10-year contract with NexGen for a turbine to help power the sewage treatment plant. Last year, NexGen told the city it wanted to stretch the contract to 2030 to raise the money necessary to fix the turbine, officials said at the time.

NexGen estimated the cost of repairs at $250,000, city administrators said.

The contract included slight kilowatt-per-hour increases into the contract years, administrators said. In 2016, the last full year of the turbine’s operation, NexGen charged the city $59,000 for the electricity it produced.

The city is charged only when the turbine is producing power, officials have said.

The turbine provided about 20 percent of the electricity used at the plant. Direct Energy, the primary power supplier, is filling the void, officials have said.

Last summer some City Council members complained the turbine was an eyesore that cast a pall on one of the city’s prime tourist areas.

A larger turbine at Conneaut Middle School, erected by NexGen at about the same time, never performed as expected and resulted in a lawsuit. NexGen filed a lawsuit against parts manufacturers that is still working through the courts.