PORTSMOUTH – Portsmouth’s turbine broke again last week and this time it could be shut down for awhile.
Gary Crosby, assistant town planner and the man who oversees the town’s wind turbine operation, said he is told the problem is a slip ring.
The mechanism is located in the turbine’s nacelle, and while he said he is not clear on its purpose, “I am told that it is important, that it is broken and that we need to get a new one.”
Lumus Construction, the Woburn, Mass., company that has taken over the turbine’s maintenance, has put in an order to a German supplier for a new one.
“I asked them (Lumus), ‘Are we talking days, weeks or months,’” Mr. Crosby said. “They haven’t replied yet so I don’t know,” although weeks seems the best bet.
Mr. Crosby said the malfunction happened last Tuesday, Dec. 7. Lumus technicians were just wrapping up work on a previous problem that had plagued the turbine for some time, a problem that required Mr. Crosby to go to the turbine and manually restart it after frequent mysterious shutdowns.
“They started it up and it ran just great for about 45 minutes,” he said. Then the technicians “started getting all sorts of crazy electrical readings” so they shut the turbine down and discovered the broken part.
Mr. Crosby said the technicians believe that there is no connection between this latest problem and the earlier shutdowns.
It’s a part that wore out, he said, a problem that is made more complicated by the fact that AAER, the company that supplied the turbine, went bankrupt earlier this year. When AAER was still afloat, technicians there could monitor the turbine remotely and make any needed adjustments, usually without even visiting the site.
“Had they still been in business, who knows, they might have had a slip ring on the shelf and it would already be installed,” Mr. Crosby said.
The Town Council voted in September to hire Lumus for $30,000 to take over the maintenance operations that had been provided by AAER. Lumus has since been licensed by turbine builder Wind Tech International to handle the turbine’s maintenance and has been to town frequently in the past few weeks.
Mr. Crosby said he expects that, under the new agreement, Portsmouth will have to pay for the replacement part and its installation.
Despite the recent frustrations, the turbine has remained profitable for the town, he said.
Up to last Tuesday’s breakdown and despite the earlier shutdowns, the turbine had still produced 104 percent of the projected power for this fiscal year (since July 1). Back in mid-October the turbine was 22 percent ahead of projections.
“Had we not had these problems, who knows, we’d still probably be at least 10 to 15 percent ahead of estimate.”
Entering the windier winter months, Mr. Crosby said he hopes the slip ring repair is a quick one.
“It would be too bad to miss out on the winds we expect to get at this time of year,” he said.
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