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Air Force turbine offline for repairs; Gear box was failing on the 389-foot-tall turbine, according to officials

If you’re driving on Route 151 or Route 28 near Joint Base Cape Cod, you might notice a wind turbine tower that’s missing some important parts.

The blades of the turbine have been taken down so that a gearbox can be replaced, Rose Forbes, remediation program manager for the Air Force Civil Engineer Center, said Monday.

The Air Force first shut down the 389-foot-tall turbine, manufactured by Fuhrlander, in May of 2014 after there was an indication the gearbox was failing, Forbes said. Metal flakes were found in some oil, she said.

“That was a sign something was amiss,” Forbes said. “We voluntarily shut it down because we didn’t want it to cause more damage.”

It took time to get the funds approved for a new gearbox and a contract to hire a company to do the work. The project cost is $600,000, Forbes said.

A gearbox should have a lifespan of 10 years, but the one on the base turbine only lasted 4½ years. Because that specific gearbox is no longer manufactured, it had to be sent to a company in Pittsburgh to be retrofitted.

The 1.5 megawatt turbine went up in 2009 to much fanfare. Since then, the Air Force has added two 1.6 megawatt General Electric turbines on the 22,000 Upper Cape base near the 6th Space Warning Squadron radar station in Sagamore known as Cape Cod Air Force Station.

When all of the Air Force Civil Engineer Center turbines are operating, they generate enough electricity to offset the $500,000 electric bill to operate water treatment plants for the ongoing groundwater cleanup programs at Joint Base Cape Cod.

Two other turbines on the base near Sagamore generate enough electricity to offset half the electric bill for the massive PAVE PAWS radar station.

With the Fuhrlander turbine shut down for about a year, the other two turbines were generating enough electricity to offset about 70 percent of the costs to run the treatment plants, Forbes said.

The rotors for the Fuhrlander were removed last week and, weather permitting, the new gearbox should be installed and the rotors put back in place today. The turbine should be spinning and generating electricity by the end of the week, Forbes said.

“I hope so, that’s the plan,” she said.