While the town’s wind turbine located at Portsmouth High School has been at a standstill for nearly a month now, town officials hope to have it spinning once again by the end of this week.
According to Gary Crosby, assistant town planner, one piece of equipment that needed to be replaced was the “up tower duplicate control panel’s LED screen.” It was inoperable and could not be read.
When technicians were working in the nacelle hundreds of feet in the air, they would have to climb down the tower to view the duplicate control panel at the base.
“It was next to impossible to troubleshoot,” said Crosby.
On Dec. 7, the up tower control panel’s LED screen was replaced and the turbine was ready to run again.
On that day however, the turbine’s slip ring failed. A slip ring transfers electric power from the rotating generator located in the nacelle to the wiring running down the tower.
The nacelle is the main body on the top of the turbine. The nacelle can turn a full 360 degrees.
Thus a slip ring is used to transfer the power instead of hard wiring that can twist. If hard wiring were to be used, the nacelle eventually would need to turn and turn to untwist the wires.
Due to some winter weather issues in Europe, and later the storm in Portsmouth, the slip ring’s delivery was delayed. Work started on Dec. 27 and on Dec. 28, the slip ring was completely installed.
Once again, the turbine was set to go back into operation.
At that point, according to Crosby, a module in the PLC or Programmable Logic Controller failed. The PLC is a digital computer and is the “brains” for the turbine.
The module was ordered and is being shipped from Austria.
“The module was due to arrive in Portsmouth on Wednesday,” said Crosby.
But, as of Monday afternoon, its location was in Germany.
Crosby stated that last year the original manufacturer of the turbine AAER of Canada went bankrupt.
“This caused everything to stop. That included routine maintenance, emergency repairs and remote monitoring to be interrupted,” he said.
The town scrambled and hired Lumus Construction of Woburn, MA, to take over all phases of operation that had been interrupted.
Around this time, Windtec, owed by American Superconductor Corp. with headquarters in Fort Devens, MA, had purchased the assets of AARE and agreed to fully train Lumus Construction.
Crosby stated, “The contract with Lumus is set to expire the end of 2011 and will be up for competitive bids at that time.”
Regardless of when the module arrives, “Lumus Construction is standing by and is prepared to install it. It should be running by the end of the week,” stated Crosby.
The turbine is a 1.5MW turbine and is equal to 1,500 kilowatts or 1,500,00 watts. At its pinnacle, with one of the blades pointed directly at the heavens, the height is 340 feet in the air.
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