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Willmar wind turbine idled since April expected to be turning by week’s end

The Willmar Municipal Utilities wind turbine that lost its nosecone in April undergoes repairs Tuesday in Willmar. The turbine is expected to be operational by week’s end. (Tribune photo by Kyle Rozendaal)

By Kyle Rozendaal

WILLMAR — The wind turbine on the north  edge of Willmar that lost its nosecone in April this year was repaired Tuesday afternoon.

The nosecone fell off the south turbine because brackets that held an access ladder in place fell off, rattled around inside and eventually broke the brackets that held the nosecone in place.

“The turbine should be up and running by the end of the week,” said Wesley Hompe, the general manager for Willmar Municipal Utilities after speaking with a repair technician on Tuesday. “We just want to ensure the turbine will run at 100 percent before we hit that green button.”

The Willmar Municipal Utilities has two wind turbines. Over the past six years, the performance has been variable.

According to Tribune archives, a recent analysis Hompe presented to the Municipal Utilities Commission showed that performance improved from 2010 through 2012 as early problems were resolved, but production fell in 2013 due to various problems. The turbines had run well from November 2013 through April 2014 when the nosecone on the south turbine fell off.

The turbines are still under warranty with DeWind Company of Round Rock Texas. However, repair payments and liability are still being negotiated with the company, according to Hompe.

Willmar Municipal Utilities is also preparing for when DeWind’s contractual obligations end in September. Willmar Municipal Utilities is in the beginning stages of searching for a local contractor to inspect and maintain the turbines rather than relying on Texas-based company DeWind.

“We haven’t been very involved in any process up to this point but after the contract ends, Municipal Utilities will hopefully be in a management position rather than an observer position,” said Hompe on Tuesday. “I believe that once (the contract) ends in September, the turbines will run much more efficiently and with fewer problems since there will be more local involvement and more frequent maintenance.”

However, Willmar Municipal Utilities still plans on maintaining a close relationship with DeWind. DeWind frequently updates codes and software necessary to run the turbines in sync with Willmar’s power grid.