BAYONNE, NJ – Problems with Bayonne’s infamous wind turbine came to a head at the Sept. 22 Bayonne Council meeting when Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski questioned why now-former director of municipal services Tim Boyle was negotiating with potential turbine companies without prior council approval.
Boyle, who acknowledged that some of the $66,000 authorized to obtain legal counsel to explore options for the city’s water contract with Suez was being used to deal with questions involving the turbine said that negotiating was the wrong word and that a story in a local newspaper had misinterpreted what was being done.
The turbine – which was supposed to help cover the power needs for operating the city’s sewerage plant – has been problematic almost from the day it was installed nearly a decade ago.
Installed at the Oak Street sewerage plant, the towering, 262-foot tall, 70-ton stark white turbine has a power of 1.5 megawatts. The blades are 252 feet in diameter. The wind turbine was manufactured by Leitwind, an Austrian company, and supplied by its Colorado-based sister company, Leitner-Poma of America. This wind turbine is the first of its kind in the New York-Northern New Jersey metropolitan area.
It was assumed at the time of construction that this model of turbine was superior to many previous generations of similar devices because the Bayonne turbine did not rely on a gearbox to turn the electric generator. Instead, the turbine uses an innovative, patented generator with permanent magnets and an especially developed and optimized control system.
Officials back in 2012 believed this meant the turbine would require less frequent maintenance.
City officials boasted that the turbine would save the city as much as $25,000 a month when operational, only the machinery has broken down several times, including once in 2015, two years after the warranty expired. A year later, another part broke down, costing the city tens of thousands in repair costs as well as the loss of cost savings that it was designed to provide.
“Those are not the only problems,” Ashe-Nadrowski said.
While the steel used for the construction of the tower comes from New Jersey companies, many of the other parts, such as the rotor blades, come from elsewhere like North Dakota, Tennessee, Colorado, and Michigan.
“We appear not to have local control over it,” the Council President said. “There is software operating somewhere in Maryland, and the switch that turns the thing on and off is in Italy.”
While the current reason for the turbine’s failure has been attributed to a bad generator, according to Boyle, the city is trying to resolve this with the manufacturer, Leitner-Poma of America.
Ashe-Nadrowski and several citizens at the council meeting questioned whether the city had a maintenance contract since some of the problems, Boyle claimed, were a result of improper upkeep.
Legal counsel was required because the city and company could not come to an agreement on who was responsible for the repairs. Boyle also said that the city has consulted other companies that might have similar products and get the turbine back online.
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