BY DON HOHLER • OCT 2, 2017
Wind turbines are supposed to spin and in doing so make power.
The one adjacent to American Legion post 41 west of Norwalk, after some trials and tribulations, got the spinning right but not the power part.
If the truth be known, however, even the spinning part was an eight-year problem.
But, first things first.
A member of the post’s executive board addressed the purchase of a wind turbine in 2008. He told members that he had learned the state was giving as much as a 50-percent credit toward the energy bill if wind power was used. The post would have an initial outlay of about $100,000, however, that figure paying for the tower, foundation and the fencing. The road was already in. The members approved the project.
Daniels Construction from Berlin Heights was contracted for the instillation of the Enertech E13 turbine.
And the beauty of it was the government was going to and did issue a $83,944 grant (check) for using wind power.
“One can see it looked like a win-win situation for us,” post spokesman Tom Cesa said.
“It was all in good-faith as far as we were concerned. We wrote the check for our part and although it took longer than expected to get the project completed, mainly because of wind conditions and weather-related problems in general, it finally came to fruition a year after the contract was signed.”
Post officials recognized there was a problem three weeks into the start of the machine, one that took a full two-years to bring on line due to the many permits and wind studies it took before start-up.
One of the three self-adjusting propellers didn’t adjust to wind velocity. Simply put, it got stuck and the vibration that ensued forced a shutdown and an eventual replacement of all three of the 30-foot props.
“Initially, there was a problem with the braking system of the turbine,” Cesa said. “The system has to maintain control of the speed of revolutions and it was running out of control with the possibility of tearing itself apart. That new braking system fix would come out of the Post’s pocket, $10,000.
“Then the power cable that sends power from the armature down to the meter box started to wrap up for lack of a wire-connection ring,” he added.
“So, every week, sometimes after just three or four days, someone had to get inside the fencing enclosure and disconnect the quick-connect connections we had installed after the fact, so we did not have to climb to the top of the tower to untwist them. That was a five-minute job, but a must, so the wiring to the rectifier and inverter would not be twisted off.”
The bottom line is a turbine that cost upwards of $200,000 had run for three months and really not done much more than that, just spinning.
One might say, however, those early problems were all correctable ones.
There was one other glaring one, however. One that would never be corrected. While the turbine was online, supposedly making power and saving the owners money, it was doing very little of either.
“Upon signing the purchase order, we were told the turbine would pay for itself in 10 years and then would have a life expectancy of another 15,” Cesa stated. “Well, because the generator was virtually powerless, the post realized a grand total of $10 in savings over those three months.
“I even went so far as to call Ohio Edison, questioning their meter reading,” Cesa said. “They came out and metered it and assured us the turbine was virtually putting out no power.”
But Cesa, who took it upon himself earlier this year to try and salvage something out of the project, admitted that all hope is lost.
“I gave it every chance, but when after the turbine ran for nine weeks with no problems over that span, I checked the meter and found it producing so little a power that it was not paying for the power it cost to run the meter. It is either the turbine is too small or the generator inadequate or both,” Cesa believes.
The bottom line is in good faith, the Legion spent upwards of $100,000 and received virtually nothing in return and that nothing includes help from the Attorney General’s Office and an attorney who supposedly was an expert in this field.
So, what went up in good faith nine years ago will come down, the wind turbine that is. The tower will remain standing.