Despite some setbacks, the town’s wind turbines are running well, and Princeton Municipal Light Department general manager Brian Allen credits his crew for ensuring they continue to hum.
“We’ve made a real effort to keep the windmills running,” said Allen at the April 10 light commissioners meeting. “That’s paid off with energy credits earned in February helping to recover some of the January expenses.”
Last month, Allen told commissioners that Fuhrlaender, the German company that installed the wind turbines, is completely dissolved. A Ukrainian company had bought Fuhrlaender but decided to shut it down. Prior to that, Fuhrlaender was working with a German trustee, he said.
“Once we lost Fuhrlaender as our maintenance provider, the option was to get another provider for twice a year, plus on-call response,” said Allen. “But now our crew has taken over all the maintenance; our guys were all trained on it. We’ve got so much money invested up there we don’t want to let maintenance go, and with how important those machines are, I wouldn’t want to let anyone else touch them.
“There is definitely a new level of maintenance on the windmills,” he said. “Even if we did turn over the maintenance to another provider, our guys would be able to make sure it was being done right. Experience is the best teacher.”
Allen said a maintenance contract must be in place, and the insurance company agreed the PMLD crew is qualified. Commissioners signed the contracts. Allen said his crew is qualified to work on Templeton’s windmill and the windmill at Otis Air Force on Cape Cod. “We have our hands full with our own, but if we were needed to help out we could do it,” he said.
“I think it’s a feather in your cap that these guys are so well trained,” said commission chairman Scott Bigelow.
Allen said the linemen all go through line and rescue training and get recertified in tower training every two years. “We have purchased rescue equipment for each tower,” he said. “The ropes are kept in protected humidity. We do everything we can to make sure everyone is safe.”
At the March 13 commissioners meeting, Allen said his crews were spending more time maintaining the windmills than anticipated.
“That’s not bad because it’s winter and we can’t be working on the main roads in the winter. But come spring we’ll be in full bore with line work on Worcester Road and Ball Hill Road,” Allen said.
He said a thermograph imaging of the turbine’s electrical system showed it is okay, but a slight discrepancy in the oil sample from the south turbine would be watched.
A report on the maintenance findings was sent to the Devens-based energy technology company American Superconductor, which said it would give Princeton some support, he said. A technician who spent eight hours on the machines noted some bearings may have to be replaced, and suggested a gearbox technician check it.
“The warranty on the new gearbox was through Fuhrlaender, but we should be able to purchase a warranty,” said Allen.
The blades are checked every summer by the blade manufacturer, he said.
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