Fuhrlaender, the firm that manufactured the turbines for Princeton Municipal Light Department’s (PMLD) windmills, hasn’t shipped the gearbox that is needed to replace the damaged gearbox on the south windmill at the wind farm.
Brian Allen, manager for PMLD, told commissioners at their November meeting he sent a letter to Fuhrlaender on Nov. 8 stating under Mass General Law, they, [Fuhrlaender], need to abide by certain laws. PMLD officials believe the gearbox is under warranty and Fuhrlaender should pay for its replacement.
“I talked with Windward Energy in California,” said Allen. “They run three of the type of machines with the same gearbox that we have and they did have gear box issues.”
In their case, they stopped the turbine before any damage was done and then fixed it on their own by developing their own tooling, said Allen. “He said we should be concerned with the bearings,” said Allen. “It’s disheartening news. They found different bearings and replaced all of theirs with better bearings. The only way they found the problem was with a borescope.”
“They had a 66 percent failure rating in their gearboxes and they are concerned that we may have a problem with our other machine if it’s the same manufacturer,” said Allen. “I asked him if his company would come in and replace bearings in our machines if we find we have a problem, and they can do that.”
Commissioner Brad Hubbard asked about the warranty PMLD has with Fuhrlaender.
“Fuhrlaender isn’t recognizing a warranty with us. They say it’s with Lorax and Lumis, the contractors that installed the equipment,” said Allen.
“Our position is we have a warranty and we’re a third party benefactor,” said Hubbard.
“Fuhrlaender doesn’t recognize that,” said Allen.
“We believe our contract is very clear.”
“I find it difficult to believe any manufacturer of any product could do that,” said commissioner Scott Bigelow.
Allen said the gearbox has been built and is expected to take three weeks for shipping.
That presents a problem since it would be difficult to get a crane up to the wind farm in the winter, said commissioner Don Steadman.
“It’s frustrating,” said Bigelow.
“It is unfortunate,” said Allen. “But that’s the way it’s playing out. I wish I had better news.”
Allen reported that a blade on the north turbine that was damaged during initial shipping has been repaired. The damage was near the top of the blade and it’s under guaranty, said Allen.
“All six blades are in good shape, that’s the good news,” he added. It didn’t have to be done right away, but we wanted it done before winter this year, said Allen.
In other business, Allen said he is working with Kate Mellecker who operates Kate’s Power House, in a section of the PMLD building, to find a long-term solution that will enable her to continue using the building.
“I met with Kate and her husband Scott and gave them specific examples of what I was worried about and explained my security concerns,” said Allen. “They agreed with everything I presented to them about the security of the building. We discussed the possibility of her having a private entrance and separating the area where she runs her business from the PMLD office area.”
This is a preliminary discussion, said Allen, the next step is to talk with building commissioner John Wilson and get his feedback.
“Both sides are willing to work on a solution,” Allen added. “In the meantime, everything is fine, and Kate is trying to make sure that interference is kept at a minimum.”
Allen reported he has been working with Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Company for a portion [20 percent] of Princeton’s power supply for the next five years.
“How do we protect ourselves on the open market? They came up with a plan for about five cents a kilowatt hour for the next five years,” said Allen. “If they can purchase it for less we’ll get the lower price. If the turbine gets up and running we can sell the energy back. This covers us on the top 20 percent of our power purchase and protects us. These prices are below what we paid in 2001.”
“We’re glad to see you locked this in,” said Bigelow. “If the prices go down, great. If they go up, we’re locked in.”
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