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Reserves will pay for repair of turbine

WILLMAR -- Reserves would likely be tapped to pay for higher-than-anticipated repair costs to the Willmar Power Plant's No. 2 turbine.

The turbine was taken to Power Generation Services in Anoka for repair in January, but the extent of the repair is more than utility staff had expected, resulting in a repair bill that's increased from a budget of $250,000 to an estimated $1 million, according to Bruce Gomm, utility general manager.

The turbine was last opened up in 1992, but repair money was not available and the turbine was returned to service. The most recent repair work found corrosive damage to the blades was greater than expected, and Generation Services was asked last month to come up with a new repair estimate.

Photos presented to Willmar Municipal Commission members on Monday indicated some blades were corroded to the point of looking like Swiss cheese. The turbine turns at 3,600 revolutions per minute, and officials say severe or catastrophic damage to equipment and people could occur if pieces break off and fly through the turbine.

Gomm said the commission's Planning Committee discussed a range of repair options and recommended extensive repair be done to ensure reliability and safety.

He recommended the commission pay the repair cost from a reserve fund established for such occurrences. Reserves are funded with what's called "retained earnings," which is year-end money remaining after all bills are paid.

Since the new repair project is estimated at more than $100,000, City Attorney Rich Ronning advised the commission to advertise for repair bids from companies, and the commission voted to seek bids.

The 6-megawatt turbine provides capacity, which means it's used in case the utility needs it to operate. The turbine has a value equal to $49,800 per month during the summer season. If the utility did not have capacity from No. 2, the utility would need to buy that capacity on the market.

Also, No. 2 provides backup for generator No. 3 for voltage and electrical support for normal electrical operation.

Depending on when a repair contract is awarded, the turbine could be returned to service by summer, according to Gomm.

Also Monday, the commission:

- Approved contracts totaling $410,000 with DeWind of Round Rock, Texas, to transport and deliver two wind turbines to Willmar in June.

- Approved the low bid of $159,738 from Electrical Power Products of Des Moines, Iowa, for a substation at the new wastewater treatment plant. The cost had been budgeted at $150,000.