Several Prince Edward Island rinks that were convinced to make the expensive conversion to wind power, but never saw the promised savings, are now trying to get rid of the trouble-plagued turbines and win compensation for their troubles.
“We went into debt to purchase this windmill on the promise that it would make us money and it would help us with our power costs,” said Tom Albrecht, vice-president of the South Shore Actiplex in Crapaud, P.E.I., which spent $70,000 and received another $230,000 from the federal and provincial governments to install a turbine.
“The bottom line is buy us out and give us our money back.”
Last week, the Wind Energy Institute of Canada apparently decided to shut down turbines at at least some of the rinks, as it worked through technical problems, according to Darin Craig, past president of the South Shore Actiplex board.
In 2010, the institute had contacted the Actiplex, and three other rinks, to inform them about the benefits that a wind turbine would add to their community arena.
Mr. Craig said institute representatives estimated the rink would save up to $18,000 per year – covering about 50% of the electrical costs for the facility.
Instead, the wind turbines generated a third of what the board was originally told, about $10,500 during two years.
“When you’re led to believe that you’re doing something that’s going to benefit a community facility and it doesn’t – it leaves a bad taste in your mouth,” said Mr. Craig. “It would have been a huge saving for us, if it were to be true.”
The Actiplex board took out a line of credit to pay for its $70,000 share, Mr. Craig said.
“We still owe significant portions of the [original] amount and we’re paying it down as best as we can,” he said. “But it’s not going to be paid back in the five and a half years they said they would.”
When Seaforth, the manufacturer, installed the Actiplex turbine in September, 2011, it began to have troubles right away. The turbine shut down after the first few days and then parts – like the windmill, the rotary transformer and the grounding wire – started to fail.
“It’s certainly not helping us and it’s more of a burden on us,” Mr. Albrecht said.
Jeff Reynolds, a member of the board at the Northumberland Arena in Murray River, told the CBC he convinced his town and neighbouring Murray Harbour to invest in the turbine. “[We] went to these towns and asked them to put up $35,000 apiece to get this project to go forward,” he said. “If we could get our money back and have the turbine taken out of there we’d be very happy.”
He told the CBC the Wind Energy Institute blamed the problems on cold weather, light wind, and poor placement.
Alan Rennie, a board member at an arena in Alberton, P.E.I., that also converted to wind, said their turbine is experiencing problems as well, however the board is looking to give it another chance to perform.
“We are hoping that this thing will turn around and generate some electricity for us,” he said.
During the first six months, Mr. Rennie said the new turbine experienced a slew of problems. His biggest concern is that rather than saving the promised $18,000 a year, the turbine saves only about $5,500 annually.
“We’re not getting what we were expected to get,” Mr. Rennie said. “We’re pinching pennies to keep up.”
As for the South Shore Actiplex, it has been unsuccessful in gaining a refund from either governments or the Wind Energy Institute after multiple conversations.
Calls and emails made to officials from the Wind Energy Institute of Canada, including CEO Scott Harper, were not returned.
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