August 5, 2015
New Jersey

77-ton weak link: Wind turbine becalmed in $350,000 snafu

By Joseph Passantino, Reporter staff writer | Hudson Reporter | Aug 05, 2015 | |

Known as the windmill to most city folks, its huge blades have been motionless for the last few months. It seems impossible that there would be no wind blowing off Kill Van Kull And indeed, it’s not the breeze, it’s the bearing. Turns out that Bayonne’s $7 million wind turbine, which brings in $250,000 to $300,000 a year in energy savings for the city, was shut down two months ago and will be dormant at least until November, according to Bayonne Municipal Utilities Authority Executive Director Tim Boyle.

Until it’s fixed, the city will be losing about $7,000 a week in energy savings, Boyle said.

The turbine, which is monitored by a maintenance company in Colorado and its manufacturer in Italy, was turned off remotely on June 2 after vibrations were detected.

“The vibration was an indication that something was wrong,” Boyle said. “We decided to shut it down to not let the problem progress.”

An investigation determined that the main bearing in the generator at the top of the turbine is shot after a little more than three years, even though it is supposed to have a 20-year life expectancy. The turbine, which is at East 5th Street, began operation in 2012.

“We can’t figure out what caused the bearing to start operating incorrectly,” Boyle said. “It did not seize.”

Boyle said the turbine was under a maintenance contract, although it has not been determined if the portion of the warranty covering the $350,000 generator was “still operable.”

United Water attorneys are currently reviewing the agreement to ascertain who is responsible for the cost of its replacement. The wind turbine is owned by the BMUA, but is operated and maintained by United Water.

A regular maintenance schedule was adhered to, and at the last inspection in May there were no indications that there were problems.

The problem could result from a manufacturing defect or it could be a “lemon” part, Boyle said.

The restoration of the wind turbine is complicated because the replacement part must come from Austria and because it weighs 77 tons.

When it’s determined who is liable for the cost of the part and it’s ordered, the logistics of transporting it to Bayonne will be addressed. After arriving in the United States, permits would have to be acquired to have the part delivered by truck. Bringing it in by water is another option.

“To avoid roadways, we’re looking at barging it in using a local dock,” Boyle said.

When the part arrives, only half the task will be accomplished. Its reconstruction will force the 260- foot turbine to be disassembled and lowered to the ground for the generator installation. Additional fencing may need to be added, and a shutdown to the adjacent access road to Rt. 440 may be necessary.

Once all that is done, it should take about “a day or so” for the work to be completed, according to Boyle.

“It’s a piece of equipment we sorely miss when it’s not operating correctly,” Boyle said. “It’s our $7 million asset, so we certainly take care of it.”

As onerous as the situation is, there is a small bright spot surrounding the timing of the shutdown.

“It’s a little on the lucky side for us; summer is the low-wind season,” Boyle said. “If I had to choose, the summer is the best for it to not be working.”

Boyle said everything possible will be done to get the turbine up and running again as soon as possible.

“We’re hoping it’ll be turning again by Nov. 1,” he said.

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