The Hanover wind turbine project has a new finish date which is on track after being delayed for a variety of reasons for well over a year.
“The contractor is pushing steadily towards completion,” said DPW Director Victor Diniak. “The manufacturer’s U.S. representative has been on-site since Oct. 5 working on testing and commissioning the unit.”
The now 225-kiloWatt (kW) turbine was originally voted on during a 2008 Town Meeting. Hanover citizens approved a 100-kW project but, at the following year’s Town Meeting, the town upped the funding from $500,000 to $1,000,000 to make it a 225-kW windmill so the anticipated savings returned from the turbine would be more feasible for the town.
The project went through a bidding process that ended with Lumus Construction offering the low bid of $768,500. Construction was set to begin in the fall of 2010. However, after a series of delays, the project was built earlier this year.
“The turbine was manufactured in India last fall. Language barriers, differences between U.S. and international electrical regulations as well as shipping delays are what have caused most of the delays on this project,” Diniak explained.
That said, the project now seems to be nearing completion. Diniak said National Grid came out last week to finish the final connections at the transformer and to actually energize the unit.
“This will allow the manufacturer to perform final tuning of the system and final testing of the controls prior to the witness test before representatives of National Grid,” he said. “It is my understanding that the witness test is the final hurdle that we must pass before being authorized to connect the turbine to the power grid.”
Hanover Town Manager Troy Clarkson said he and Diniak have daily conversations about the state of the project and that he is pleased to see the project’s completion date approach.
“I know it has been a long process,” he said, “but a finish line is in sight.”
Despite that, the town still faces criticism for its overall handling of the project. One man with questions is Kevin Zygadlo, a Hanover resident who worked in the wind turbine field for 25 years. Zygadlo isn’t happy with how the town has handled the project up to this point.
“The project is one and a half years behind,” he said. “We’re losing $50,000 per year on this. That’s a teacher we could’ve had.”
Zygadlo has been persistent in requesting both Clarkson and the board of selectmen to collect the performance bond that the town paid for when signing the contract with Lumus Construction. He said when he brought the issue before Clarkson, the town manager said he didn’t want to collect the performance bond because it would put the company out of business. Zygadlo argued that the town should not have agreed to pay the money for the bond if they were unwilling to collect it.
A performance bond is an aspect of the contract between the construction company and the town that insures the town a certain amount of money if the project isn’t completed in an efficient or timely manner. If the bond is collected, the contractor’s contract is severed and the town would then find a different contractor to complete the necessary work.
With the project running well over a year late, Zygadlo felt it was time to collect.
However, Clarkson said the town looked into collecting the bond and decided against it.
“We had already contacted the insurance company before Mr. Zygadlo ever brought the point up,” he said. “The insurance company advised us to try to finish the project with the current contractor. Our objective is to get the project done.”
Clarkson added Lumus Construction has kept a dialogue with the insurance company throughout the delays and knows town leaders had felt the need to discuss the performance bond.
“We used it as an incentive to encourage project completion,” he said. “Lumus’ response has been excellent.”
Zygadlo said he hopes the town pursues the bond even with the project nearing completion because, although it could cause a problem for the construction company, the town has essentially been paying for the delay in missed revenue.
“If the turbine was running, there would be cost avoidance,” he said. “The selectmen have a responsibility to collect missed revenue. I want them to at least make an effort. If they can’t, then they can’t, but they should at least be proactive.”
Diniak said even after the turbine is connected to the power grid there is a “breaking-in period” where adjustments will be made. So, the project isn’t completely finished. However, Diniak was confident in the structure’s ability.
“These turbines are quite simple and as such they tend to be quite reliable,” he said. “Despite the frustration of the many challenges we have faced on this somewhat groundbreaking project, we are certainly anxious and excited to bring this project to completion.”
As far as the performance bond goes, Zygadlo said he wouldn’t be forgetting about it any time soon.
“I’m going to stay on this,” he said. “$50,000 is an amount of money people can connect to. We paid for the performance bond and [town leaders] have a responsibility to the taxpayer to collect it.”