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9 months after Bayonne wind turbine’s big repair, cost is still being negotiated

BAYONNE – Nine months after the city’s wind turbine underwent complicated repairs due to a broken bearing, the cost of those repairs is still being negotiated, an official said.

Bayonne Municipal Utilities Authority Executive Director Tim Boyle said on Friday that the MUA and its water contractor are still negotiating the cost with turbine manufacturer Leitner-Poma.

The MUA – which will be dissolved as an autonomous agency and become a division within the city Department of Public Works on Jan. 1 – originally estimated the total cost at $298,000.

But Boyle has noted that Leitner-Poma encountered difficulties during repairs on the 260-foot turbine at Oak and Fifth streets that later drove that estimate “skyward,” which in turn has prolonged negotiations.

“There’s been some movement toward resolving it,” Boyle told The Jersey Journal this week, adding that the MUA’s dissolution is not expected to impact cost negotiations.

The MUA official has previously stressed that the bearing that broke was supposed to last 20 years but only lasted three.

The saga of Bayonne’s turbine troubles began in June 2015 when the turbine stopped spinning due to a broken bearing that was part of the machine’s generator.

After several delays, the turbine was repaired in March this year but broke down again in early August due to what Boyle later described as an unrelated cause: a “speed encoder” problem with a rotor brake part.

The turbine was fixed a second time in early September, by which point its intermittent dormancy had cost the city roughly $225,000 in lost energy savings.

Meanwhile, Boyle has said that the cost of the rotor brake repair was covered by a maintenance contract between the MUA’s water contractor (a joint venture between SUEZ and investment firm KKR) and the turbine manufacturer.

Asked who pays for the maintenance contract and how much, Boyle said that money comes out of the city’s 40-year deal with its water contractor, which annually requires the contractor to pay $500,000 for maintenance costs and $2.5 million for capital improvements.

He directed further inquiries about the cost of the maintenance contract to SUEZ, which couldn’t provide that information this week.

As for the bigger turbine repair dating back to March, Boyle has said the cost of that repair will likewise be paid for through the maintenance fund provided by the city’s water deal.

If the cost exceeds the money in the maintenance fund, money would then be taken out of the capital improvement fund, he said, adding that the MUA is trying to avoid that scenario.

Asked when negotiations over the March repairs are expected to be settled, the MUA official was cautious.

“I expect it to be early in the new year,” Boyle said.