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Military Base Having Trouble With German-Made Wind Turbine
By: Diana T. Barth
Published: 01/17/13
One of the major lessons learned over the past several years by the Air Force Civil Engineer Center (AFCEC) on the Massachusetts Military Reservation might be that it pays to buy local.

One of the duties of that center, formerly the Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment, is to oversee the operation of three wind turbines which were installed to help offset the energy costs of the environmental cleanup of the Upper Cape base.

The first turbine to be erected was the 1.5-megawatt German machine in the southwestern portion of the base, not far from the part of Falmouth where Route 28 and Route 151 intersect. It went up at the end of 2009.

Since then, it has had a series of problems. Assistance with the maintenance of the European-made machine has been hampered by distance, language barriers, and slow response times, said Rose H. Forbes, the turbine project manager. At the time, she said, the major American manufacturer of industrial-scale wind turbines was looking for orders of 10 or more machines and would not supply just one or two.

When it came time to order the two 1.5-megawatt wind turbines now in the northern area of the base, not far from the Market Basket in Sagamore, the wind turbine market had changed, and the program was able to buy American-made turbines. Those turbines went up in November 2011.

Performance of that machine was impacted by lower-than-average wind speeds, a number of mechanical problems, and poor service by the manufacturer, they said.

Not only did those wind turbines perform as expected, US-based General Electric representatives were responsive to any problems or questions that did arise, Ms. Forbes said.

The wind turbine operation is jointly funded by the Air Force and the Army, which have each taken responsibility for the cleanup of different sources of the pollution that affect Cape Codís sole source aquifer, sending plumes of contamination into the groundwater.

Electrical costs for the cleanup program ranged from $2 million in 2009, when the first wind turbine went online, to $1.6 million in 2012.