Assistant Town Planner Gary Crosby says a hard-to-find "specialized part" for the Portsmouth Wind Turbine Generator has kept the turbine from spinning its blades for more than a week.
The town's wind turbine, located at Portsmouth High School, has remained motionless since May 10 after an error code alerted town workers to a problem on site. A "pressure sensor" is to blame for the error code, Crosby says.
"The short story is Lumus believes the fault is in a pressure sensor and they are having difficulty locating a replacement part," Crosby wrote in an e-mail to the Portsmouth Town Council Monday.
However, at first, technicians were unaware the problem was with a sensor.
"When the error message first appeared a week ago Thursday, Lumus did what they usually do by downloading and transmitting data recorded a few minutes before and after the moment of the fault to Windtec in Austria for their analysis and recommended repair protocols," Crosby writes.
"Windtec examined the data and suggested the error was in a switch in circuitry having to do with measuring oil pressure in the gearbox. Lumus set about trying to locate a replacement switch and sent their technicians down to work [on] the problem. As it turns out, there was no 'switch' in the circuitry for Lumus to find."
The previous company, AAER, installed an instrumentation package unbeknownst to Windtec. "So Lumus/Windtec was hunting around for something that did not exist," Crosby writes. "...Lumus was able to locate the pressure sensor itself and determine that it was faulty."
Lumus' employees contacted two distributors in New England, both of which did not have this special part. Lumus also contacted Hydac distributors in Germany, Canada and Illinois.
"The good news – the Hydac distributor in Illinois has 40 of ‘em. The bad news – they are all spoken for," said the assistant town planner.
However, the Illinois distributor is working to "see if he/she can contact one of the entities who has the 40 sensors locked up, to spring one of them loose for us," Crosby said.
The part is expected to cost between $100 and $200, according to Crosby.
"Rest assured, Lumus, Windtec and I are doing everything in our power to speed this process along," he said.
"It is small consolation I know, but the next time we are expected to have any winds above 8 mph for any appreciable length of time is Thursday afternoon at the earliest. If we have to miss out on production time, at least we are missing out during a period of low winds.
"I know there is a great deal of rhetoric flying about regarding the wind turbine these days. As many of you know, I am more that forthcoming about the turbine when asked (to a fault, some might say). Please, please, please, if you have any questions at all about the turbine pick up the phone and call me. I am more than happy to talk to anyone about it and always ready to explain the details. Just ask."
The phone number for the Town Planning Department is (401) 643-0332.