Willmar's wind turbines have 'a very quiet start' in 2023

Neither of the Willmar wind turbines is currently spinning due to a blade pitch issue and a breaker failure.

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One of Willmar Municipal Utilities' two wind turbines is shown Jan. 31, 2023, along the northeastern edge of Willmar. A blade pitch failure and a failed breaker have limited output so far this year.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

WILLMAR — After a rather successful 2022, Willmar’s wind turbines are off to a “very quiet start” in 2023, according to Facilities and Maintenance Manager Kevin Marti.

Output for wind turbine four in January was zero due to what Marti termed a "blade pitch failure" in a report Monday to the Municipal Utilities Commission. He said the wind turbine technicians are working to diagnose the problem and get the turbine up and running again.

Output for wind turbine three was 249,638 kilowatt-hours, but it stopped working Feb. 10 when its breaker failed, Marti said.

New breakers were ordered in November and are expected to arrive in the first week of March.

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Breakers for the wind turbines are replaced every few years, but it took Willmar Municipal Utilities several months to source the replacement breakers this time around, according to Marti.


The last time the breakers were replaced around 2016, there were local vendors that were still manufacturing them. However, those vendors have since stopped servicing those parts and moved on to other things, Marti noted.

“We couldn’t find a domestic vendor to get them other than going right to the manufacturer,” he said. “They had to kind of dust off books and sent an engineer out to take some data. They were able to find the old drawings and specs and find that this is still a serviceable part from the manufacturer that comes out of Germany. It just took some time to connect all those dots.”

He explained that breakers are typically rated for roughly 8,000 to 9,000 cycles or trips. A trip is each time the turbine shuts down and then has enough wind to “fire back up.”

“We’re kind of in an odd situation here, where it’s not typically wind turbine country,” Marti said. “When you get further south and the wind blows a lot more — southern Minnesota, Iowa and south in the Plains — they have less trips. With lighter winds, you’re going to see more trips.”

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Willmar’s wind turbines generally have about 2,000 to 3,000 trips per year, so it is expected that the breakers will last approximately three years. The breakers that are currently in the wind turbines have more than 11,000 trips.

Due to the difficulty in finding new breakers this time around, Willmar Municipal Utilities will be ordering new breakers in about a year and a half in order to be prepared for when the new ones are reaching the end of their useful life, according to General Manager John Harren.

Each breaker costs about $36,000.

Jennifer Kotila is a reporter for West Central Tribune of Willmar, Minnesota. She focuses on local government, specifically the City of Willmar, and business.

She can be reached via email at: or phone at 320-214-4339.
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