Hanover is moving forward with scheduling negotiations to decide the future of the wind turbine in Hanover, despite mechanical and software-related issues that continue to plague the machine.
Negotiations would decide whether the town accept ownership of the turbine, pay the $200,000 balance of the initial $750,000 cost and what kind of maintenance or warranty the machine would have.
The turbine hasn’t been operating and generating energy consistently since it was installed in 2011. In fact, it didn’t begin producing energy until 2013. The turbine was meant to save the town $50,000 a year in energy costs, but in nearly two years, from September 2013 to August 2015, it saved the town $9,008.
“The bottom line is, the level of frustration has reached a critical mass, and we believe action must be taken,” Town Manager Troy Clarkson said.
The Wilmington-based energy company, Lumus Construction, improperly installed the turbine leading Hanover Insurance, which held their surety bond, to become involved, Clarkson said.
The turbine cost taxpayers an initial $750,000 to install, of which Clarkson said the town has already paid about $550,000 through a bond, which was able to be funded through a bond under the tax levy. He said the remaining $200,000 that initially would have been paid when the town took ownership of the turbine, will be part of the negotiations.
“The town would object strenuously to paying for a machine that doesn’t work,” he said.
Clarkson said the town could receive a state grant of $450,000 after taking ownership of the turbine.
The Plymouth-based company Aeronautica Windpower, has consulted with the town on behalf of Hanover Insurance, and the town has paid more than $92,000 to Aeronautica for repairs since they began working on the turbine. Clarkson said the town is reimbursed for this money through Hanover Insurance.
Aeronautica Chief Operations Officer Tim Stearns said the company had an agreement with the surety that expired in September, and since they don’t have a contract with the town, he would not comment on the turbine or any issues it was having.
Emily Trevallion, media relations contact for Hanover Insurance, also declined to comment on the turbine, because of the bonded contract they have with the town.
Clarkson said if the town takes ownership of the turbine, the negotiations would include warranty or maintenance program, which could include a contract with Aeronautica to continue working on the turbine.
The town had been waiting until the turbine worked for 30 days without a problem before beginning negotiations to potentially take ownership of the turbine, which is the industry standard for problems to be considered resolved. This past September, the turbine passed the 30-day mark for the second time since it had been installed, but issues cropped up again.
Due to a mechanical issue, in which cables twisted and triggered an error about two weeks ago, the wind turbine in Hanover stopped working once again, Clarkson said. The machine had also been having periodic issues with the blade tips over the past couple of months, causing the machine to stop running on and off.
Clarkson said he suspected these issues are interconnected and due to the original faulty installation by Lumus Construction.
Despite beginning to have issues once again, Clarkson said it’s time to begin negotiations one way or another.
“We could continue to wait around for 30 days, but for how long,” he asked.
Selectman Joseph Salvucci asked whether the turbine could be simply be taken down, because it’s been a problem that he would’ve liked to see resolved before he leaves office in May.
“Are we going to take that windmill down before I leave,” he asked. “I’ve been here six years in May and it hasn’t been operational.”
Clarkson said while it doesn’t seem likely that the turbine could be removed, he said all options would be considered.
“All of the options are on the table, but until we’ve had a discussion with the surety about who is paying for what options, I can’t speculate,” Clarkson said.
He said these negotiations wouldn’t necessarily mean the town would take ownership of the turbine, but that is one of the options. Clarkson offered no timeline for when negotiations may be completed.