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Willmar Utilities requests warranty payment from wind turbine maker

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WILLMAR — The Willmar Municipal Utilities is requesting a $254,354 warranty payment from wind turbine maker DeWind Co., of Irvine, Calif., for three years of lost electrical energy production due to breakdowns and repairs.

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The amount of the payment, also known as liquidated damages, is calculated according to the warranty formula and is due the utility as a result of the two turbines' failure to perform under warranty, explained Wesley Hompe, utility general manager.

The payment request was reported to the Municipal Utilities Commission on Monday by Jon Folkedahl, director of electric production. The commission two weeks ago asked utility officials to provide an update on turbine energy production.

Under the agreement with DeWind, the units are warranted to be available to produce power 95 percent of the time. If availability is less than 95 percent, those hours are subject to the formula, he said.

The turbines were constructed just north of Willmar Senior High School and were commissioned on Sept. 6, 2009. The utility originally had a two-year warranty, and the commission extended the warranty for three more years. The current extension expires in September 2014.

This is the second warranty claim the utility has submitted to DeWind. The first claim covered the first 12-month operation period from Sept. 6, 2009, through Sept. 5, 2010, and totaled about $75,000, said Folkedahl. He said the utility had owed money to DeWind and they agreed to reduce the utility's payment by about $75,000.

The second claim covers the 36-month operation period from Sept. 6, 2010, to Sept. 5, 2013. Availability for both turbines averaged 84.6 percent for the period.

From Sept. 6, 2010, through Sept. 5, 2011, availability for the north tower was 88 percent and was 82 percent for the south tower, with liquidated damages totaling $68,284.49.

From Sept. 6, 2011, through Sept. 5, 2012, both towers were available 91 percent of the time and damages fell to $31,199.46.

However, damages climbed to $154,870.86 from Sept. 6, 2012, through Sept. 5, 2013, because the north tower was available 86.8 percent and the south tower was available 67.7 percent.

The south tower has not been functioning due to a breaker failure some months ago. Hompe said a replacement breaker has been delivered, but it arrived with very little training and information for DeWind technicians to work with. Hompe said the breaker in the south tower has been certified, but technicians are still trying to get the piece to work.

Hompe said it looks like a similar failure is also affecting the north tower, but he said the cause has not yet been confirmed. Hompe said the parts are covered under warranty.

Folkedahl said the parts that failed are only available in Germany. That company was purchased by another company, resulting in some confusion. He also said there has been slowness on DeWind's part as well.

"We are working through that,'' said Folkedahl. He said contacts made Monday with DeWind should be helpful in getting the breakers replaced as soon as possible.

In an interview, Hompe said his goal is 100 percent availability.

He said the report was disappointing because the 2012-2013 period did not produce as he had hoped, "especially when I saw that in 2011-2012 we had relatively good production and very little in liquidated damages.''

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David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150
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