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Electrical Blowout Stops Turbine at Nome Wind Farm

All of the wind turbines are fully repaired and now generating up to 30% of the City's power. Photo: Matthew F. Smith, KNOM (2014)

An electrical blowout at one of the large wind turbines northwest of town has put the machine out of commission, effectively reducing Nome’s wind energy by a third.

Nome Joint Utility manager John Handeland said the issue arose shortly before 4 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 10, when capacitors at the base of the unit, within the control cabinet, overloaded. That brought the 900 kilowatt turbine—and its three 85-foot long blades—to an abrupt halt.

Losing the 900 kW output from the unit means Nome’s total wind power output, roughly 2.9 megawatts, is down to approximately 2 MW. About half of that 2 MW comes from the second of the two 900 kW turbines, while the remainder comes from 16 smaller “Entegrity” generators.

Addressing the Nome City Council at their meeting this week, Handeland said, though far from ideal, the blowout couldn’t have come at a better time. Technicians from the Emergya Wind Technologies, the Netherlands-based manufacturer of the two large turbines, were already headed to Nome.

“It just so happens [there was] scheduled maintenance with their crew, [who are] here this coming week,” Handeland told the council at their Monday meeting. “And, so, they have a big job in front of them.”

Handeland said the EWT technicians are bringing additional parts that aren’t in the utility’s on-site inventory to complete the repair. The exact cause of the blowout may not be known until technicians can look into the unit and see for themselves.

In the meantime, Handeland says the poor winds over the past week have meant the turbine’s lack of output has had “negligible” impact on Nome’s energy use as a whole.

NJUS purchased the two EWT turbines, using grants from the Alaska Energy Authority and NSEDC, as part of a $9 million expansion of the Newton Peak Wind Farm. The expansion was completed last September.