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MWRA blames company hired to maintain its Deer Island wind turbines for the way one began to tear itself apart

Damaged wind turbine after May 29, 2023 incident

Damage after May, 2023 incident. Photo by MWRA.

The MWRA today sued a maintenance company for the nearly $4.4 million it says it will cost to replace an electricity-generating wind turbine at Deer Island it charges was destroyed because the company let what should have been a relatively routine shutdown for some repairs turn into a catastrophic event in which the turbine's blades began to separate from the device.

In its suit, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, the MWRA says it hired Baldwin Energy of Wilmington in March, 2022 to do maintenance on two turbines at Deer Island and one in Charlestown and that just a few weeks later, it found problems with one of the Deer Island turbines, known as WTG1, and made in India, that needed to be shut down for repairs.

The authority says that while Baldwin technicians put the turbine in emergency stop mode, they didn't follow the manufacturer's handbook to take specific steps to keep the system safe for a longer period - including installing a device to ensure the nacelle remained locked in the correct position to minimize wind impact, and then returning every two weeks to ensure that the locking system was working. And so:

On May 29, 2023 WTG1 suffered a catastrophic failure where the turbine's blades and rotor assembly spun out of control, and portions of the blades separated from the turbine.

The WTG1 blades continued to spin without any ability to control their speed, with observable damage occurring to the blades, in addition to occasional tower vibrations. ...

After attempts by Baldwin to engage the braking system through the control system at the base of the tower failed it was determined that the only option was to wait for the winds to die down, or the rotor to stop rotating, so technicians could safely climb the tower and lock the blades in place.

Once blade rotation had ceased Baldwin personnel ascended the tower and mechanically locked the blades in place.

Substantial damage in the nacelle was discovered, including equipment broken from mountings and the hub rotor and blades separated from the nacelle, leaning forward from its normal vertical position with numerous retaining bolts snapped.

In response, the MWRA says, it hired another company to try to make repairs - and hired a "forensic investigator" to analyze what went wrong, which the MWRA says was basically that Baldwin failed to install the locking mechanism required by the manufacturer for a long-term shutdown, leaving the blades and rotor in a position in which they could be made to spin out of control in particular wind conditions.

The authority says the May 29 incident left the wind turbine too damaged to repair, so it will had to pay to tear it down, then find a new unit and contractor to install a replacement. In addition, it's also lost the value of the electricity both turbines used to generate - it shut down the other turbine as a precaution after the incident.

In February of this year, the MWRA sent Baldwin a demand for the money it says will cost to replace the turbine. It says that as of today, the company has yet to offer to pay anything.

In the lawsuit, the MWRA formally charges Baldwin with breech of contract and negligence.

A date for Baldwin to respond to the lawsuit has yet to be set, according to the case docket.

PDF icon Complete complaint342.95 KB


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Blame it on the wind!

Voting closed 14

While at first this may sound like a technical mistake that could be particular to this turbine, it's not.

Forgetting to lock the turbine would be like a plumber trying to repair your sink without knowing they needed to turn the water off first. Something so incredibly fundamental that it's hard to imagine how someone this incompetent was allowed to work on such an expensive piece of equipment in the first place. No hiding now!

Voting closed 34

Nothing to do with this, but an example of a simple step that wasn't performed that could've been a real problem.

A few years ago, in January, I had my windshield replaced. Part of the procedure is removing the wiper arms to get the old shield out and new one in.
The tech didn't tighten the bolt on one of the wiper arms. Really simple and very necessary step. It's nothing I would think to test, and with a new windshield, best to not use the wipers unless necessary. The way I found out was while driving home in snow and put the wipers one.
The wipers were hitting each other because of the one not secured. Luckily it wasn't heavy snow and I was almost home. That could've been disastrous for me if I was on the highway without wipers in the snow!

Add to that this: It was the very end of Jan. and my safety inspection was due.
I had the car inspected the day I got the windshield replaced. That guy in the inspection station obviously didn't check that safety feature or he would've surely alerted me to it.
Doesn't ANYBODY do their job?!

Voting closed 14