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Turbine II future remains ‘up in the air’

IPSWICH – Two wind turbines or windmills stand tall at the end of Town Farm Road. They are visible from Gloucester, but only one works to make electricity.

Wind II currently produces no power because of a 2018 fire, but whether the turbine will be torn down or fixed remains an unanswered question.

Jon Blair, Ipswich electric manager, believes Wind II doesn’t have much of a future, based on talks with turbine owner Ipswich Wind Independence LLC.

The fire destroyed the turbine’s mechanism. The turbine also took heat, flame, and smoke damage up to the top.

Benjamin Cleaves, operations manager for Ipswich Wind Independence, believes the company may repair the turbine and that it may produce power again.

“The turbine will not operate again, but Ipswich Wind Independence has paid all the taxes owed, and everything is up to date as of six months ago,” Blair said.

“I don’t know what is going to happen at that site,” Cleaves said. “It’s complicated.”

Power purchase

The Ipswich Electric Light Department and the town schools own Wind Turbine I, also at the end of Town Farm Road, and they also have a power purchase agreement with Ipswich Wind Independence to buy all the power the turbine produces and feed it into the town’s electric grid.

The power purchase agreement was supposed to last for 20 years.

Now the purchase agreement makes empty promises, with Ipswich Wind Independence violating the agreement because the turbine hasn’t produced power for almost three years.

Carbon-free power

Fifty-six percent of the town’s power now comes from carbon-free sources, mostly hydro-electric, according to the light department’s 2020 Annual Report. The department promises a “diverse and affordable power portfolio.”

Wind Turbine I makes 1.6 megawatt per hour of maximum production – enough to meet the power demands of the high/middle school, with any surplus going directly to the town’s power needs.

The Electric Light Department owns one-third of Turbine I, and the schools own two-thirds of the turbine.

“One is still working. It’s in fine condition,” Blair said.

Turbine II was supposed to produce two megawatt hours of peak operation, meeting about three percent of the town’s electrical demand in total. But the fire destroyed all the turbine’s ability to make power, and Ipswich Wind Independence LLC now violates its power purchase agreement with the Electric Light Department, Blair said.

Parts

Wind II was manufactured by Hyundai, but it no longer makes parts for wind turbines.

Blair sees the issue of replacement parts as a big hurdle to repairing the turbine.

Cleaves sees it differently: Another manufacturer could make the replacement parts, he says, and the parts pose very little problem to rebuild the turbine.

Whether or not Ipswich Wind Independence LLC rebuilds Wind II remains an open question.

Ipswich, in fact, may be better off without Wind II.

“I would argue that we’re in a better position now. All the contracts we have are cheaper than power from Wind II,” Blair said.