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Jiminy Peak wind turbine offline for repair

HANCOCK – Less than two months after Jiminy Peak started up the wind turbine it calls Zephyr, GE technicians took the blades down yesterday to repair a faulty bearing that is preventing the device from working at peak capacity.

It will cost GE roughly $640,000 to repair it, and officials hope to have the $4 million, 1.5-megawatt turbine working again by Monday.

According to Jiminy Peak spokeswoman Katie Fogel, a problem with one of the blades was detected shortly after the turbine was put into operation on Aug. 15.

“We had been monitoring the problem, and at one point it seemed like it had corrected itself,” Fogel said. “But it turned out it really needed to be fixed to be sure that it runs the best that it can.”

The 75,000-pound blade and hub assembly was hoisted to the top of the tower and attached to the nacelle after a perilous journey up the mountain on July 15. The turbine was powered up on Aug. 15.

Environmental impact

When functioning properly, the turbine is supposed to generate enough energy to reduce 7.11 million pounds of greenhouse gases a year, while saving the equivalent of 383,000 gallons of diesel fuel annually. The

236-ton, 386-foot-high turbine is to provide about 60 percent of Jiminy Peak’s power and pay for itself in seven years, officials have said.

Jiminy Peak President and CEO Brian Fairbank said Jiminy and GE engineers had been studying the problem and determined that it was either a bearing or a battery problem. After some time, it was determined that one of the blades may have an issue with a bearing.

“The only way to solve this is to take the blade down and make any repairs or corrections on the ground,” Fairbank said. “This is much easier than trying to take a blade off 270 feet in the air.”

‘An unfortunate incident’

On the ground, technicians will determine exactly what the problem is, fix it and hoist the assembly back to the top of the tower.

“It is an unfortunate incident that does not happen often with GE turbines, but is not unheard of,” Fairbank said.

He noted that of the approximately 19,800 blades on 6,600 GE-made turbines in North America, GE has replaced 13.

“We’re likely the 14th,” Fairbank said. “General Electric has been great at working with us. They sent crews here to detect and fix the problem, as well as testing and monitoring the site. GE is also incurring all costs associated with this issue, including parts, labor, transportation, and crane.”

Fogel said Jiminy Peak officials were keen on repairing the problem before the winter season, so the turbine will provide as much power as it can during the mountain’s peak power needs.

“Yes, this is a hiccup, but we do not anticipate any other issues with the turbine and foresee a good, long life for Zephyr,” Fairbank said.

By Scott Stafford, Berkshire Eagle Staff

October 10

To reach Scott Stafford: sstafford@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 496-6240.