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Wind turbine stalls at Dorchester Penitentiary

Recurrent mechanical failures have prevented a $2-million wind turbine outside of the Dorchester Penitentiary from operating properly since its installation three years ago.

The 600 kW wind turbine has been faced with a number of operational issues on and off since 2009, when the turbine was erected as part of Correctional Service of Canada’s efforts to use renewable energy in the operation of the penitentiary.

Veronique Rioux, a media spokesperson with CSC, says the turbine’s most recent breakdown came in October 2012.

“At present, the wind turbine has stopped working due to a failure of the electrical transformer,” Rioux explains.

There had also been previous issues with the power inverter and the motor protection lubrication pump, although those problems had been addressed prior to the most recent failure.

Rioux says CSC has, to date, spent approximately $60,000 for repair and maintenance costs on the turbine, which was performed by an independent contractor. More work is expected to be required to get the unit up and running again.

“The electrical transformer will need to be repaired so that power can be restored to the wind turbine,” says Rioux.

Hopefully by then, she says it will be possible to better assess the scope of any further corrective work that may be needed.

CSC purchased the large-scale wind turbine from Fuhrlaender, a German manufacturing company which, as part of the contract, was supposed to assume responsibility for the ongoing operation and maintenance of the unit.

Rioux says previous repair work was covered by the company; that is, up until September 2012, when CSC learned Fuhrlaender had filed for insolvency.

Village resident and former Dorchester Mayor Mel Goodland says it’s been disheartening to watch as the blades have sat motionless for months at a time.

“It is too bad. They’ve had mechanical problems with it from the beginning,” says Goodland.

Goodland says during his time as mayor, the village council had been considering setting up their own turbine in the community to take advantage of local winds when CSC decided to move ahead with its renewable energy project.

“It’s what we wanted to see here, so it’ll be nice to see it working properly.”

Goodland says he hopes CSC is able to resolve the issues because people in the village would like to see the turbine operating again.

“We want to see it running again.”

When CSC moved forward on this project back in 2009, Dorchester Penitentiary was the first federal institution to generate a portion of its electricity from wind. The renewable energy project came with a pricetag of $2.3 million – $1.5 million for the 600 kW wind turbine and $800,000 for site preparation, infrastructure, installation and project management services.

The wind turbine was expected to generate approximately 20 percent of Dorchester Penitentiary’s electricity demands, saving an estimated $110,000 per year in energy costs.

Rioux says over the past three years, the cumulative periods over which the Dorchester wind turbine has been operational equate to roughly 12 months and has resulted in an approximate savings of $110,000 in total in electricity costs.