BRISTOL – There are problems with the wind turbine that was just installed at Safe Way Auto Center on Gooding Avenue.
While the turbine’s engineers and manufacturer are working on what exactly is wrong, the turbine will remain shut down. Last weekend, the blades were taken off and all loose parts shrink-wrapped to the tower to keep anything from whipping around in the wind.
According to those involved in the project, an electrical system was not handling the power generated by the turbine, and the turbine was making a loud noise.
The 50 kW Aeolos wind turbine was installed in mid-December, then testing began. It seemed that the turbine made plenty of power but it was not all being taken up through the inverter. It generated some energy in the few hours of testing but not as much as it was actually making, said Safe Way Auto owner Joseph Coelho. He likened it to a power dump: The inverter wasn’t using as much of the energy as it could have, and was dumping the rest as extra.
The noise is what concerned Mr. Coelho the most.
“If you ever had a car that needs a wheel bearing – that’s what it was like,” he said. “It was an excessive noise; more than I wanted, more than I bargained for.”
The turbine made a shuddering noise as it spun that was exacerbated as it picked up speed, he said.
Mr. Coelho said he expected the turbine to have a slight hum from the electricity generation and to hear a swishing of the blades as they turn. He said the 1.5 MW turbine at Portsmouth High School is “as quiet as a church mouse” when he’s gone to check it out, and he expected his turbine to be similarly quiet.
Aeolos has been in business since the 1980s and has wind turbines all over Europe. Its engineers are located in Italy and the parts are manufactured in China.
The problem with the inverter may be that it’s a European-designed power converter that’s made in China (which has a different power-conversion design) for a market that has a power-conversion system different from both of them, Mr. Coelho said.
The turbine for Safe Way Auto Center was the first Aeolos had made for the U.S., according to Bibs Vargas of E2SOL, a Rhode Island company that is the dealer of the Aeolos wind turbine. E2SOL is also the project manager of Safe Way’s turbine.
Mr. Vargas said that engineers and manufacturers are working together in China on the problems in Safe Way Auto’s turbine. They have the electronics that aren’t working properly and a video of the turbine in action making the shuddering noise.
“(Aeolos) gave us assurance they’re not going to let us down; they’ll do something for us,” Mr. Vargas said Friday afternoon.
Mr. Coelho is frustrated by the turn of events. He said he expected it would take some time to get the turbine running optimally – that it would need “fine-tuning” to the location’s exact wind speeds and other data. He’s not satisfied with parts going back to the manufacturer to be assessed.
“I want things done. My attitude is why can’t we fix this thing,” he said.
“It’s too bad,” Mr. Vargas said. “Joe is right to be upset. But, these things happen.”
In the meantime, both Mr. Coelho and Mr. Vargas are in touch with a contractor who will install an Aeolos wind turbine in Georgia. Mr. Coelho said that preliminary examination of that turbine appears that all the parts check out. When the contractor erects the turbine and gets it running he’s going to let Mr. Coelho and Mr. Vargas know if he has any of the same issues or if it works.
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