Local school officials met with prosecutors to discuss whether to take legal action against a Scotland-based wind-turbine manufacturer.
On April 10, a blade toppled from on one of three 145-foot wind turbines on the campus of Western Reserve High School. All three were shut down pending an inspection by Proven, the manufacturer of the turbines.
Superintendent Charles Swindler said the company hasn’t yet admitted the problem was their fault, so the district administrator met with Mahoning County prosecutors last week to discuss filing a suit against them, as well as Tri County Towers of North Jackson – which was contracted by Proven to install the turbines in 2009.
Proven, founded in 1980, has 3,500 small-scale wind turbines in 60 countries, according to the company’s website.
Swindler said the turbines cost $450,000: $165,000 was paid for through a grant from the Ohio Department of Development. The Ohio School Facilities Commission paid for about $153,900, and the school was responsible for the remaining $131,100.
“Tri County’s involvement is because they have the contract, but there’s equal responsibility by the wind-turbine company [Proven],” Swindler said. “The problem will be getting Proven to take responsibility.”
Don Duda, assistant Mahoning County prosecutor, said he’s currently reviewing the case.
“I’m reviewing the contracts and the obligations of the parties to determine the rights and responsibilities under those contracts,” he said. “Once the review is done, it will be up to the client to determine the course of action.”
Swindler said the turbines are under a five-year warranty from the manufacturer. In the two months the turbines have been inoperable, the district has lost about $24,000 in energy costs, he said.
He said the district saves money by generating energy during off hours and selling it back to FirstEnergy Corp.
“All we’re asking is that they replace all of the blades with new ones and [to provide] compensation for energy lost,” he said.
The compensation will be determined by a formula based on wind speed and Kilowatt hours.
Swindler said the turbines were installed in 2009 and ran with no problems. It was only after a blade came off of a turbine in Scotland that issues arose, he said.
“In my opinion, they overreacted by taking down all of the turbines worldwide and replacing all of the hinges,” he said.
The hinges open and close on the blades enabling them to twist at different angles as the wind blows.
“About four months after they were reinstalled, we started to see a vibration,” Swindler said.
Swindler said the turbines were shut down at the beginning of April, and several days later the wind blew one of the blades off of a tower.
“Greg Budd, general manager of Tri-County Towers, said he can’t say for certain what caused the malfunction until his company hears back from Proven.
“The parts were sent to Scotland for inspection,” Budd said. “We’re waiting to hear what they feel is the cause of the failure.”
Swindler said though the district will lose money until the turbines are fixed, he’d rather see the job done properly.
“The sooner the better, but I’d rather they be done right and safely, rather than have them do it quickly just to get it done,” he said.
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