The blades of the Scituate Wind turbine have been motionless since late April, but it’s not because of the wind.
Acting Town Administrator Al Bangert said the turbine is experiencing an electrical issue.
“(Scituate Wind) is working with the manufacturer to get the necessary part,” he said. “It’s a controls issue having to do with the blade pitch.”
Gordon Deane, president of Palmer Capital Corporation, the manager of Scituate Wind, LLC, said there have been a number of electrical ‘faults’ that have cropped up, which automatically shut the turbine down.
“While our operators have checked wiring and equipment and cleared most of the faults, there has been a recurring problem of fix one problem and another one appears,” he said. “Sometimes it’s been fix the second problem and the first one re-appears. As I understand, they don’t yet know the root cause.”
Deane said the turbine last generated power on April 25.
Sumul Shah, president of Solaya, the operators of the Scituate Wind, said it’s hard to say what the problem is with the turbine.
“We’re sort of chasing a ghost,” he said. “It’s definitely controls related.”
Shah said a lot of equipment has been changed out at this point and the problem is believed to be either wiring or programming.
“It’s possible it’s just a small short somewhere,” he said.
His crew is in “constant communication” with the turbine manufacturer, Shah said.
“We’re feeding them data during the day and they process this and give us instructions at night as what to do next,” Shah said. “This is a problem I have never seen before, nor has anybody on our crew. We’re a little puzzled by it, but we’ll eventually figure it out and it will probably be something small.”
The 400-foot wind turbine was installed in its spot on the Driftway in early April 2012.
The turbine has been offline in the past for general maintenance and due to very high or very low wind velocity, or to reorient itself to a change in wind direction.
In June of last year lightning struck the turbine, causing it to stop running for several days. Shah said this problem was not caused by lightning strikes.
“The turbine will get hit again by lightning, it’s designated to take lightning strikes,” he said. “What happened last year was the result of multiple lightning strikes in a relatively short period of time.”
Both Bangert and Deane said the Town of Scituate would not be losing revenue while the turbine was down.
“(The town) will just not be saving as much due to lost production,” Deane said. “Of course, the wind is variable and the annual kilowatt hours fluctuate every year. While this downtime cannot be recovered, there is a minimum production guarantee in our contract with the Town of Scituate but we expect the problem will be fixed well before that minimum guarantee kicks in.”
Bangert gave an overview of the revenue generated by the turbine.
He said Year One, which ran from April 2012 to March of 2013, the turbine generated $183,355. In Year Two, which is from April 2013 to March 2014 the turbine generated $235,839 of which $44,389 went to taxes, leaving $191,450 going into the revolving fund.
He also pointed out that the solar array, which has only been operational since October 2013, has already generated $141,607 in revenue.
“Both projects are producing as we predicted,” Bangert said.
Deane said Scituate Wind, the manufacturers and operators are working diligently on the problem.
“All of us are equally frustrated that the problem has not been finally identified and resolved,” he said.
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