BAY CITY, MI – The Department of Environmental Quality has decided not to repair the wind turbine, which began malfunctioning last year, that once stood at the agency’s Bay City office.
Kevin King, chief of field operations facilities for the DEQ, said that the department donated the turbine to Kalamazoo Valley Community College due to the prohibitive cost of repairs.
“It’s gone and we are moving on,” King said. “The tower demonstrated the vitality of wind energy down the Saginaw River, but the maintenance costs were far more than we expected.”
In January, crews from Kent City-based Kent Power disassembled the tower after it began malfunctioning in 2011. The DEQ’s contract with Kent Power to dismantle the tower had a pricetag of $19,475.
In May, the Wind Turbine Technician Academy at Kalamazoo Valley Community College determined the cause of malfunction, a gearbox failure. King said that the college, which has the same model turbine as the Bay City office, EW 50, provided an estimate of repairs in September.
The college estimated a ground repair cost of $51,000, which King said was a discounted rate. The DEQ would also have to pay $20,000 to erect the tower, leading to a total maintenance sum – from disassembly to reinstallation – of approximately $91,000.
“Getting the tower up and taking it down are two expensive processes, in addition to repairs and the potential for future maintenance to happen each time it might break down,” King said. “The economics did not look good.”
King said that the state’s property management budget handles the suplus of items, ranging from cars and computers to turbines, that departments no longer want. The budget allows for donation of property to institutes of higher education.
“Since the Kalamazoo Valley Community College already has the same turbine, we thought the donation of ours could serve as a training aid or source of spare parts.”
In March, King said the department had a few options if a decision was made not to repair the machine, including purchasing a new turbine, scrapping the tower or converting it into a cell phone tower.
The DEQ is currently investigating whether the structure could be utilized as a cell phone tower. King said the department has had preliminary discussions with Bay City’s zoning officer.
King said that the tower will be removed from the Bay City site if the city determines that a cell phone tower is not an option or if cell phone industry does not express interest in the project.
The turbine was installed at the 401 Ketchum St. location in 2009 by Entegrity Wind Systems. Entegrity Wind Systems was declared bankrupt by a Canadian judge in October 2009, according to reports. The original cost of the turbine, which stopped spinning in 2011, was $250,000.
Acra Cast Precision Metal Castings owner Richard Singer said that he could view the blades of turbine standing idle from the front door of his business, 1831 1st St.
“Politicians are on a green energy high thinking that it is going to save the whales and lower the sea levels,” Singer said. “It is a lie that’s being wasted on the public.”
Singer said that donating the turbine illustrates the government’s willingness to waste taxpayer dollars. He said that a better option would have been to try and sell the turbine in the private sector.
“The entire project shows the arrogant way the government treats the people that pay the bills,” Singer said. “The equipment didn’t provide anything close to the return on investment the DEQ was expecting. It went from abysmal to absolutely wretched.”
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