Hanover officials are currently working through a “punch list” of items which they hope will lead to the eventual completion of the chronically troubled wind turbine project.
Given all that has gone on to this point, however, it remains anyone’s guess when the turbine might finally start generating power to – and revenue for – the town.
“If I could predict that, then I would gladly share tomorrow’s winning lottery numbers with you, and we could both get rich together,” said Troy Clarkson, Hanover’s town manager, in a phone interview earlier this week. “I don’t want to promise a date and then have another issue come up. I don’t think that will be the case, but you just don’t know.”
However, just the fact that Clarkson can now use a term like “punch list” in referencing the beleaguered turbine project – which was originally supposed to be completed in February 2011 before suffering a series of setbacks – is a good sign, he said.
The process of constructing the 210-foot-tall turbine at the site of the town’s water treatment plant off Route 53 has been beset by problems, which have set the town at odds with the company it hired to assemble the structure. Town leaders even attempted to throw the contractor off the project, and continue to assess daily fines for the delays.
“This is one of the most frustrating public construction projects I’ve been involved with in my 20 years,” said Clarkson, adding of the turbine: “It has been operational, just not on a consistent basis.”
According to Clarkson, the punch list for work required to hopefully make the turbine operational emerged out of an inspection from Siva Group, the India-based turbine manufacturer, which sent a team of experts to town to examine the structure over the summer. The team was called in to inspect the work of Lumus Construction, which the town hired back in 2010 to construct the turbine after it was shipped over from India in pieces.
“Siva brought a team of engineers and professionals out from India, and they came up with a punch list of what was done right and what needed to be fixed with the turbine,” said Clarkson. “We’re really on the tail end of completing that now. They’re literally tightening each one of the 1,200 bolts.”
While the turbine went up in the summer of 2012, issues soon arose over getting its mechanics to function properly. Town officials attempted to fire Lumus from the project before being advised against it by bond counsel. They then hired Aeronautica Windpower, a Plymouth company, to act as a consultant overseeing Lumus’ work.
One previous problem having to do with the oil in the turbine overheating has since been fixed, said Clarkson.
“They were able to address that. It was through the quality control process that they were able to identify that and tighten up the bolts there,” the town manager said.
Clarkson said he remains in “daily contact” with Aeronautica as well as with Town Counsel Jim Toomey, who is expected to update selectmen on the project at next week’s meeting.
If and when the turbine begins producing energy, Clarkson said, two major issues will remain to be resolved with Lumus: negotiating a warranty and coming to some financial settlement due to the amount of time the project has taken.
“We continue to assess liquidated damages each and every day. I think we owe that to the taxpayers who paid for this project,” he said.
Town Meeting in 2008 approved $500,000 for a wind turbine capable of producing power to run the water treatment plant on Pond Street, and another $500,000 a year later when the size of the turbine was increased. The town subsequently procured state grant funding to offset over half that cost. Lumus was the lower bidder on the project at roughly $790,000.
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