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Scituate turbine likely won’t meet production minimum for the year

The privately owned wind turbine on the Driftway likely won’t reach its power production requirement for the year due to mechanical problems, but officials say the town will still make more money from the machine than in prior years.

Al Bangert, the town’s special project coordinator, went before selectmen Tuesday night to provide an update on the 390-foot-tall wind turbine, which has been offline for 28 days due to a power converter problem. Because of the problem, the turbine will not synchronize with National Grid’s power grid.

The turbine stopped producing electricity Dec. 10, according to Power Dash, a website that records the turbine’s energy production.

“The owners are working diligently to get the parts to fix it,” Bangert said. “The parts are coming from Austria, and there’s been a vacation in Austria that’s two weeks long.”

The turbine was made by a Chinese company, Sinovel Wind Group Co.

The same problem kept the turbine owned by Scituate Wind LLC – a partnership between Palmer Capital Corp. and Solaya Energy – idle for 50 days last summer.

The machine was also offline for several weeks in May, bringing the total number of days lost this operational year to about 100, Bangert said.

The turbine’s operational year runs from April to March.

Bangert said the turbine owners have more at stake than the town, as they must continue paying maintenance and capital costs even when the turbine is offline

While the town is experiencing a loss in opportunity as the cost of electricity rises, Bangert said the numbers still add up in the town’s favor.

The turbine produced 3.6 million kilowatt-hours in its first year of operation, which had a net benefit to the town of $183,000. In the second year, from April 2013 to March 2014, the turbine produced 3.5 million kilowatt-hours, and the town brought in $236,000.

“We received more money in the second year than the first year because the cost of electricity went up,” Bangert explained.

The turbine produced 1.4 million kilowatt-hours of power between April and November of 2014, resulting in $135,000 for the town.

Bangert said the turbine could make a million more kilowatt-hours by the end of the operational year if it turns back on by mid-January, but it would still fall short of its obligation by 600,000 kilowatt-hours.

The town’s contract with Scituate Wind LLC calls for a minimum production of 3 million kilowatt-hours per year. If the turbine fails to meet that requirement, Scituate Wind must pay the town 6 cents for each missed kilowatt-hour.

Bangert estimated that income at $40,000, bringing the town’s revenue to $285,000.

“That’s not to say if it ran all year long we wouldn’t still make more, but we’re covered for three million kilowatt-hours,” Bangert said.