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One windmill out of service

PRINCETON – During an oil change as part of the bi-annual maintenance of the wind turbines at the Princeton Municipal Light Department’s wind farm off Westminster Road, it was discovered that oil from the gear box in the south turbine contained pieces of metal.

Once the gear box was opened it was determined that the gear box needs to be replaced, said PMLD General Manager Jonathan Fitch at the Sept. 1 meeting of the board of light commissioners.

“It was immediately shut down,” said Fitch. “Fuhrlaender took responsibility for all the maintenance, said Fitch. “The gearbox is under warranty and Fuhrlaender is coordinating to do the work as soon as possible.”

The metal pieces found in the oil were from the teeth in the gear box, and those pieces settled in the bottom of the gear box, said Fitch.

PMLD installed the two 1.5-Megawatt Fuhrlaender wind turbines on 215-foot towers on Oct. 31, 2009. The turbines became fully operational on Jan. 14, 2010 and are expected to produce approximately 40 percent of the town’s annual energy requirements. So far, the windmills have exceeded the 40 percent energy output. The cost to install the two windmills was approximately $7.3 million and the windmills have an expected life span of 20-25 years.

A gear box was found in Germany and it will be rebuilt and tested, said Fitch. “That takes three weeks, because Europe uses 50 Hertz and we use 60 Hertz,” he added. Once rebuilt, the gearbox will have to be shipped due to its weight, which is approximately 30-tons, said Fitch.

“It has to be a manufacturing problem,” said Fitch. “It’s only a yearand a-half old.”

Commissioner Scott Bigelow suggested the electronics be checked to see if that contributed to the failure of the gear box. If it was a product of the manufacturer, it may warrant a recall, he said.

“Fuhrlaender is taking it very seriously,” said Fitch. “We want the gear box here by October and get it installed immediately.”

“We do have business interruption insurance,” said Fitch.

“The equipment is under warranty and will take a hydraulic crane to take the existing gearbox down. We’ll have to take the hub and the blades off,” he added. “That will be done by two cranes working together, one large crane and another smaller crane. We’ll get three quotes for that work. That will all be done in one operation. The newer cranes can drive right up the road and don’t need to be assembled on site.”

Fitch said PMLD won’t have any direct billing for the repair and a claim for business interruption will be made. Fuhrlaender will do an analysis of the gear box to determine what happened.

“I want that information, said Fitch. “We don’t want a problem with the other turbine. The turbines were tested four times this year, and there was no indication until June of a metallurgic failure. Fortunately, it was caught at the beginning.”

In other business, Fitch reported the Patrick Administration has filed a FY12 Supplemental Budget Bill that includes a $6.2 million appropriation for costs incurred by municipalities and municipal light plants resulting from the Dec., 2008 ice storm.

The Legislature had previously filed a supplemental budget that included funding for ice storm reimbursement, but the governor vetoed that budget.

The town received all its Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursement (75 percent of costs) but only 11.5 percent of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency reimbursement instead of the 25 percent initially promised by the administration.

The town and PMLD incurred approximately $4 million in expenses related to the ice storm. The MEMA portion of unreimbursed costs is approximately $400,000. Selectmen have asked state Sen. Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester) and state Rep. Kimberly Ferguson (R-Holden) to support the recent supplemental budget filed by the administration.

Commissioner Hubbard suggested if the town does receive the reimbursement, PMLD’s portion should be given back to the ratepayers who paid an extra $10 a month on their light bills to help PMLD pay off its share of ice storm expenses. PMLD projects

Fitch said his crew will be working on Main Street in East Princeton, cleaning up overhead wires to make it more attractive, especially if the Route 140 road project moves forward.

“East Princeton Village is a historic district,” said Fitch, “so I’m going to change the light fixtures to an older style, in keeping with the neighborhood.”

The next project is Thompson and Rhodes Road which has non-insulated copper wire.