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Ipswich still waiting for answers on complicated process to remove broken wind turbine

IPSWICH – The future of the privately owned wind turbine that caught fire on Oct. 18, 2018, is still being determined, the select board has been told.

But the operator and manufacturer are in a complicated arbitration process that could last the rest of the year.

At the first of two rate hearings for electricity costs for the coming fiscal year (FY21), Ipswich Electric Light Department manager Jon Blair said the two parties are arguing over removal costs.

Known as Wind 2, the 360-foot turbine has been out of action since the fire in 2018. Construction started in 2012, and the structure was designed to last 20 years.

The construction company D&C Construction has close ties to the turbine’s operators, Ipswich Wind Independence, as both have the same address in Weymouth. Some of the same people are involved with both companies.

“It is a lost cause in terms of the hardware. The owners are not going to restore it,” Blair told the select board.

Wind 1, meanwhile, is “is still a viable asset” and is owned by the town and school district.

Blair said owners D&C Construction of Rockland are in arbitration with the turbine’s manufacturer.

However, that is complicated by three things: Hyundai’s subsidiary no longer exists, arbitration is in the U.K., and COVID-19 has shut down many businesses, he added.

Blair said a settlement should be reached by year’s end, but he added that the town should start planning if the operator has no funds to take down the broken turbine.

In February 2019, the select board was told the project was never bonded. That is a type of insurance paid by developers to municipalities to protect taxpayers from paying for repairs or unfinished work.

This came to light after an electric light subcommittee meeting was told IWI was in financial trouble and that there were rumors of bankruptcy.

Whatever the outcome, “It is certain that turbine will no longer produce clean energy for the town,” Blair said.

Legal expenses incurred so far have been less than $20,000, he added. He called them “unfair” and stated that “we are not happy about it.”

On a brighter note, selectperson Kerry Mackin noted that the site can be used for a replacement turbine. The land was leased by the town to the operators as part of the original deal.

She said New England Biolabs may be interested, “so there’s some possible support from outside the town.”

Although Blair described the turbine as “an eyesore” because it was sitting idle, he said there is currently no cost to the town. “If the turbine produces no power, we don’t pay anything.”