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Bracket repairs pending on Willmar turbine missing nosecone

One of the Willmar Municipal Utilities’ turbines is missing its nosecone after the apparent failure of a bracket on an access ladder to the nosecone. Other brackets were damaged at the same time, and the nosecone fell off. (Tribune photo by Gary Miller)

WILLMAR — Willmar Municipal Utilities is awaiting repairs to brackets on one of the utility’s two wind turbines before the turbine, which was shut down April 23, resumes energy production.

Utilities General Manager Wesley Hompe told the Utilities Commission Monday that crews from turbine manufacturer DeWind came out last week and took an inventory of what happened to the turbine. He said parts were ordered.

Hompe said repair time is not yet determined because they were not really sure how long it will take to get all the parts gathered and installed.

Jon Folkedahl, power production supervisor, added that he talked to the technicians last Friday about inspecting the other turbine to ensure that the same issue wouldn’t occur there. Folkedahl said technicians were scheduled to arrive Monday.

“I think the weather’s kept them away so far,’’ he said.

In an interview, Folkedahl said it appears a bracket for one of the access ladders to the nosecone came loose. He said it rattled around and broke some other brackets. Some of the brackets that broke held the nosecone in place, and it fell off.

“The turbine was still functional. It was still producing full power when I asked them to shut it down,’’ he said. “I just asked them to shut it down for safety reasons.’’

Folkedahl said he does not know at this time how the nosecone will be replaced. He said he asked DeWind technicians and they didn’t know either. He said DeWind technicians will return when the parts for the brackets arrive.

Folkedahl said the repair work will be performed under warranty. He characterized the bracket problem as very minor and said it did not affect the turbine’s performance.

“It’s just an access issue at this point,’’ he said.

He said the utility will learn the exact nature of the failure when the DeWind crew finishes their forensic examination.


Also Monday, the commissioners expressed their appreciation to longtime employees Rich Maxfield, line department supervisor, and Bart Murphy, water and heating superintendent.

Maxfield is retiring May 9 after more than 37 years with the utility and Murphy is retiring Wednesday after more than 28 years. Hompe announced their pending retirements at an earlier commission meeting.

Maxfield started as an apprentice lineman in 1976 and was promoted to various positions along the way to the current position he has held since 2010.

Murphy was a consultant to the downtown heating system before joining the utility as a staff engineer in 1985. He was promoted to the current position in 1987 and in 1989 he obtained his Class B license as a water supply system operator.

Strategic plan

In other business before the commission on Monday, Hompe reviewed the utility’s 2013 strategic plan. Commission President Steve Salzer suggested commissioners receive the plan as information for discussion at a later meeting.

In 2010, the utility engaged in a strategic planning session that identified a number of issues and important priorities.

The 2013 process was designed to refresh the information from the 2010 discussion, prioritize the importance of strategic planning, and embed the process into the organization for maximum value and long-term results.

Based on input from the commission and staff, five major themes emerged as the most important policy and service areas. Those were:

* Organization: Develop a strong commission and effective staff for a great workplace culture.

*  Financial plan: Create a strong current and future financial position.

*  Power supply: Adopt a logical, deliberate and positive plan for the largest cost item.

*  Customer relations: Strengthen internal and external relationships.

*  Operations: Produce a safe culture and an efficient, reliable operation.

Hompe said plan will be a “living’’ document subject to periodic review and update.

Commissioner Matt Schrupp said the plan looked good and liked the idea of periodic review. “I think it encompasses all the items we talked about and good focus for where improvements need to be made,’’ he said.

Commissioner Jeff Nagel suggested deadlines be worked into the schedule.

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