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Turbine shortage may delay Fairhaven wind project

The success of wind power in the United States and the subsequent shortage of available turbines could affect the proposed Little Bay wind project.

CCI Energy will have to wait at least 18 months for turbines if the two windmills available through the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative end up in Orleans, where they were initially intended to go.

CCI hoped to have option to buy the MTC turbines due to delays with the Cape project, which is back on track.

“Right now the manufacturers, they might have a new model they want to introduce and they can’t even get it out because they’re still getting orders for old turbines,” said Jim Sweeney with CCI.

“The demand is so great right now.”

According to a Wall Street Journal article published in July, numerous wind projects from Virginia to California have stalled due to the shortage in turbines.

The town’s small wind project, composed of two industrial-sized turbines on town land, could also become a victim of the newfound success of wind power in this country.

CCI has been in touch with several manufacturers, including Vestas, General Electric, Clipper and AAER, to supply two turbines ranging from 1.6-2.5-megawatts. He has been repeatedly told that delivery would take between 18 months and two years.

All those deals would also require a 25 percent downpayment and a series of progress payments before delivery.

Manufacturers are also reluctant to supply turbines to small projects, usually requiring a 10-turbine minimum order.

CCI recently had a chance to buy two 1.6-megawatt turbines similar to those available from the MTC at a $850,000 premium, but held off on the deal until a contract with the town is in place. The turbines cost around $3 million each.

Instead, CCI is trying to package several wind projects in the state and “find homes for” 10 turbines, meeting the manufacturer’s order requirements.

According to the MTC, about almost two dozen towns are exploring of have explored wind power in the state.

Meanwhile, the developer is waiting to see what happens in Orleans before looking for turbines in the open market. Besides buying directly from manufacturers, CCI is also talking with European developers that have turbines available and may want to form partnerships with smaller American developers.

Mr. Sweeney, who designed the town’s project around the MTC turbines, now faces at least a one-year delay before it becomes operational.

Under the contract with the town, CCI must have the wind project up and running by June of 2009.

Meanwhile, by bidding in the Orleans project, there is a chance CCI could still obtain the MTC turbines. Mr. Sweeney said that because the town’s project is still well-ahead of Orleans, it is possible the turbines would end up here.

CCI proposes to install the two turbines on town property near the Arsene Street water-treatment plant and to sell part of the electricity produced there to the town.

The town stands to save at least $50,000 a year in electricity costs and receive $100,000 a year in royalties and taxes.

The project still needs several town permits, as well as other state and federal permits before work can start.

Mr. Sweeney thinks he’ll have those permits in hand by November.

“Fortunately we’re working for the town’s benefit for this,” he said.

“To some extent it should go quicker.”

All he would need are the hard-to-get turbines.

“One way or the other this project will go forward, we’ll find a turbine,” Mr. Sweeney said.

By Joao Ferreira
Standard-Times staff writer


13 August 2007