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Glitch stops Willmar's turbines from turning

Willmar's two wind turbines are pictured this summer, soon after being erected. The turbines have not been turning of late because the manufacturer failed to install a vital component to enable the turbines to work in cold weather. Tribune photo

WILLMAR -- Willmar's two wind turbines have not been turning for a week and a half because the manufacturer did not install heating equipment required to keep the high-tech equipment at the top of the towers operating in cold weather.

The turbine manufacturer, DeWind, has not provided a reason why the cold weather package, which was included in the $3.1 million purchase price for each turbine, was not installed this past summer when the turbines were constructed, according to Bruce Gomm, Willmar Municipal Utilities general manager.

Gomm said DeWind sent a maintenance crew Dec. 7 to investigate and found out the cold weather package was missing. Gomm said DeWind will be responsible for installing the package. He said the parts have been ordered, are scheduled to arrive today and will be installed shortly after that.

Gomm reported Monday on the status of the turbines in response to questions from Municipal Utilities Commission members.

The members said they had received calls from citizens asking why the turbines were not turning. The turbines are designed to provide enough power to supply about 3 percent of Willmar energy needs.

Gomm said he shares their sentiments. He said utility staff workers have also received calls from irate residents. He said the turbines are very complicated machines and many parameters must be satisfied before they will turn. Because of the cold weather, the parameters were not satisfied.

Gomm said he agrees with the commissioners that the utility lost some good energy production days. But he hopes the public continues to show its support for the turbines.

"The turbines are theirs,'' he said. "The customers own these turbines, and we definitely want to know if they have concerns or positive support for them.''