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Maintenance issues plague VA wind turbine  

Credit:  Written by Kirsti Marohn, www.sctimes.com 21 October 2011 ~~

A wind turbine erected on the campus of the VA Health Care System in St. Cloud earlier this year remains in the commissioning phase due to maintenance issues that have repeatedly caused it to shut down.

The turbine started operating March 27. The commissioning phase was expected to take a few weeks, then the VA would accept the project from the contractor, JK Scanlan Co. of East Falmouth, Mass.

However, the VA has not yet accepted the project from the contractor, said Barry Venable, public affairs officer. The turbine’s safeguard system has caused it to shut down and performance thresholds in the contract haven’t been met, he said.

“We want the thing operating the way the contract calls for, and it’s not there yet,” Venable said.

Messages left Thursday at JK Scanlan’s headquarters were not returned.

The turbine, the first in the nation built on a VA campus, was touted as a model for renewable energy projects. It was expected to produce about 16 percent of the VA’s electricity, saving a projected $98,000 each year.

Venable wouldn’t provide details about how much electricity the turbine is producing or how many days it’s been shut down, saying it’s inappropriate to discuss a contract matter. He said the turbine has performed well at times.

“Our concern is that we achieve the maximum return on the government’s investment,” Venable said.

The $2.3 million project was funded through a federal stimulus grant. It helps the VA meet a 2005 law that requires federal agencies to generate at least 7.5 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2013. The St. Cloud facility also has installed geothermal heating and cooling systems.

The 600-kilowatt machine measures about 250 feet tall at the highest point of its blade rotation. It weighs about 107 tons, with most of that weight in the turbine’s tower.

Some observers have noticed a brown substance visible on the turbine. Venable said it’s a hydraulic fluid similar to vegetable oil and is not harmful. However, he added, “We would prefer that there not be oil on the blades.”

Source:  Written by Kirsti Marohn, www.sctimes.com 21 October 2011

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