September 25, 2012

UMass Dartmouth wind turbine sits idle six months after its installation

By MATT CAMARA | 25 September 2012

Six months after contractors erected it, UMass Dartmouth’s new 600-kilowatt wind turbine has yet to become fully operational and engineers are still trying to figure out why.

“It runs for a day and then it doesn’t. … It’s got a few bugs in it,” university engineer Manuel Del Lima said Monday.

Del Lima added there seems to be a number of small problems with the turbine and that, in the past two weeks, engineers have redoubled their efforts to find them all.

The university broke ground on the turbine’s foundation in December and contractors working for the Division of Capital Asset Management erected it in April.

A Standard-Times request last week to speak about the turbine to DCAM prompted a state spokeswoman to release a brief email statement.

“The issues are attributed to hydraulic leaks in the factory hydraulic connections. There are also issues with sensors that measure wind speed, wind direction,” Alex Zaroulis of the Executive Office of Administration and Finance wrote. She added that DCAM expects to have the turbine operational in “the next few weeks.”

DCAM spokesman Jesse Fennelly attributed the delays to the difficulty in finding parts and the need for a specialist to investigate the turbine’s problems. He added that he was unaware of any such specialist working on the turbine currently.

Cape Cod Community College gave the turbine to UMass Dartmouth after the college faced opposition to its siting from West Barnstable residents and the Old King’s Highway Regional Historic District Commission, according to the Cape Cod Times.

UMass Dartmouth paid the nearly $1 million siting and installation cost but did not pay for the turbine, said Jamie Jacquart, the assistant director of the Office of Campus and Community Sustainability. The university expects to save $125,000 per year in energy bills once the turbine is operational and the unit has a lifespan of 20 years, he added.

The longer the delays drag on, the more students notice the idle turbine.

“They mockingly call it the pinwheel,” sophomore Aubrey Levesque, a business major, told a reporter earlier this month. “I’ve seen it spin one time, I think. … Usually it’s just there.”

Others said they were surprised to see the turbine sitting still, even on windy days.

“I’ve seen it spin once, ever?” said sophomore Katie Nagle. “I drove by once and was like ‘Oh, it’s moving.'”

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