August 28, 2015

Westport farmer headed to court over broken wind turbines

By Jeffrey D. Wagner, Correspondent | The Westport News | Posted Aug. 27, 2015 |

WESTPORT β€“ For the last five years, three wind turbines have dotted the picturesque Noquochoke Orchards landscape on Drift Road β€“ and now the turbine trio will be the center of an upcoming Fall River District court case

The turbines have cost George Smith IV and his grandfather George Smith II more than they have produced; the younger Smith and his aunt Doris Mills will be taking the turbine owner, Rob Rollins of Aerostar, to small claims court on Oct. 15.

Smith IV said for the last four years the three turbines have not spun once. They instead have cost Smith, Mills and his grandfather more headaches and money than any cost savings. In fact, Smith said, they have worked only one out of the five years they have been on the Drift Road properties.

“I have called everybody,” Smith IV said this week. “I don’t know who else to call.”

Smith said he and family members used grant funding and other methods to procure three turbines from a Westport Point business man in 2010. Shortly thereafter, Rob Rollins bought the company and supposedly all warranties on the windmills.

Since that transfer and the turbines breaking down in 2011, Smith IV said he and his family have been given “the runaround.”

In a 2013 letter from Rollins that Smith shared: β€œIt appears from the several inspections and limited testing, that the electronic control system and generator experienced a powerful electrical surge most probably due to a lightning strike, as well as possible wind damage.”

Smith IV has stressed that all warranties and other aspects of the turbines were transferred over to Rollins.

Also in the letter shared by Smith, Rollins went on to describe that an extensive inspection and repair would be needed. It would require climbing and possibly lowering the turbine. Rollins told Smith it would cost $4,875, according to the letter.

Smith said he began contacting the company in 2011. Smith also said that Rollins blamed the issue on Hurricane Sandy, but Smith refuted the idea, because the outage had begun a year before that storm struck the area.

In an email that Rollins wrote to Smith, Rollins explained that the warranty would not cover the repairs because there was no defect in the system, and that the problems appeared to be a power surge.

Rollins could not be reached for comment this week.

Smith IV said he has been given other mixed messages from Rollins.

Smith IV said at one point Rollins has said that the company has no money to cover the costs to fix the issues. On another occasion, Smith IV was advised to purchase insurance and go through insurance to fix the issues.

Under that plan, it would cost Smith IV a $5,000 deductible and $2,000 to repair each wind mill.

This year alone, Smith IV has paid $300 for electricians to assess the problem. He has also paid $600 in lawyer fees

Smith IV hopes to recover $7,000 in small claims court.

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