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Hanover officials optimistic that wind turbine is ‘operating properly now’

Hanover’s wind turbine has been running for more than 45 days without a problem, indicating it may finally be problem free, officials said. Industry standards state if the machinery surpasses a 30-day milestone, it is considered to no longer have issues, said Tim Stearns, Aeronautica chief operations officer.

“It’s operating properly now,” Stearns said. The town hired Stearns’ firm to help mitigate issues with the turbine.

The turbine hit the 30-day mark last year, when it operated for 90 days before an issue with twisted cables required the original manufacturer, Siva, to fix the problem.

The last problem was a hydraulic issue in mid-August, which Siva and Aeronautica worked together to fix.

Selectmen Chairman Brain Barthelmes said the next step is to meet with the town’s lawyer, Jim Toomey, and Aeronautica to make sure the turbine has been “truly operational” over the last 30 days, and discuss an extended warranty for the turbine to manage issues that might arise after the town takes ownership.

“We also need to look at the power generated (over the last 30 days) versus what was committed to in the contract,” Barthelmes said.

The turbine was installed in 2011, but a series of mechanical and software related problems prevented it from generating power until 2013 when the blades first spun. Since then, problems continue to plague the machine, which has made its energy production sporadic.

Because the turbine was not operational, the Wilmington-based energy company that installed the turbine, Lumus Construction, defaulted and Hanover Insurance, which held their surety bond, became involved, Town Manager Troy Clarkson said.

The town entered a contract with Lumus which stated the town is eligible for liquidated damages of $1,000 per day for every day that the turbine is not operational.

The damages are now estimated at $1.6 million, according to a financial update Clarkson gave in August.

He said the negotiations about the warranty and compensation for liquidated damages would be discussed at a settlement meeting with Hanover Insurance.

“We are cautiously optimistic that our team approach with the surety company and our consultant has produced a positive result,” Clarkson said.

The turbine has had to be reset within the last 45 days, but Stearns said it’s typical that a turbine might be reset regularly and it’s not indicative of bigger problems.

Clarkson said the town is looking to move forward with the process.

“This has been a long and, at times, frustrating journey, but we believe that the route we have taken to work with the surety company has produced the best financial and operational result for the taxpayers in town,” Clarkson said.

The turbine cost taxpayers $750,000 to install, and was meant to save the town $50,000 a year on energy costs.

As of August, the turbine has saved the town $9,008 since it first went online 2013.

“We hope to resolve the issue once and for all soon,” Clarkson said.