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Warranty about to expire: Utilities Commission seeks answers to wind turbine questions

Willmar Municipal Utilities Commission members have questions about the utility’s two wind turbines as expiration of the turbines’ extended warranty nears. Tribune file photo

WILLMAR — Municipal Utilities Commission members would like answers to some questions they have about future operation and maintenance costs of the utility’s two wind turbines as expiration of the turbines’ extended warranty nears.

Commissioner Joe Gimse suggested during a commission meeting this week and his fellow commissioners agreed that they would submit written questions to utilities staff and then discuss the answers at a future commission meeting.

General Manager Wesley Hompe said his staff has been working on a number of turbine issues and may already have answers to some of the questions.

The turbines, constructed north of Willmar Senior High School, were commissioned Sept. 3, 2009. The turbines originally had a three-year warranty, which was extended two more years. The south turbine has been shut down since April 23 after a bracket for one of the access ladders to the nosecone came loose.

Gimse said the utility for quite some time has been looking at a looming date when the extended warranty will expire, and he did not think options to extend it further were available.

“In my mind and certainly in the minds of some other commissioners, there are questions about how those turbines will operate in the future: how are we going to handle repairs and maintenance costs,’’ he said.

“I don’t think we can even begin to realize what the actual cost to keep those wind turbines going, considering all of the breakdowns that we’ve had and all the issues that we’ve had with them. It causes me a lot of concern going into the future knowing that this extended warranty is coming off of them,’’ he said.

Gimse was concerned that the utility plan and understand the financial situation, the cost to operate and maintain, and what the future looks like. He suggested commissioners email their questions to staff, that staff compile the questions and the commissioners set priorities on the most important aspects.

“We spent a significant amount of money on those turbines. We need to be proactive in figuring out what the future is,’’ he said.

Commissioner Justin Mattern agreed.

“There have been some issues with them. We need to prepare the best that we can: how are we going to cover the costs, what are they costing us? We need to have a handle on that,’’ he said.

Hompe said the request was timely. He said staff has much of this already taken care of.

“If there is a hole there, we can get back to you. Then you’ll have a list of answers that we’ve already accumulated to questions you may have. And if we see the questions that come out don’t cover the gamut of answers we’ve had, we can also volunteer those too,’’ he said.

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