The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

November 1, 2012

Sandy had no impact locally on windmills

Kathy Mellott

SALIX — Towering high above the Cambria-Somerset mountaintops, the dozens of wind turbines stretching to 400 feet into the air fared well during the onslaught of Sandy, the storm that ripped apart much of the Northeast.

But despite the need for plenty of wind to keep the turbine blades spinning, high wind storms and hurricane-force gusts do not mean the electric meter spins faster for the turbine companies, one spokesman said.

“People may think hurricane-force winds are good for the wind industry, but they actually don’t do us a lot of good,” said Dan Lagiovane, projects communications manager of EverPower.

Commercial windmills operate at peak efficiency at around 35 mph winds and are shut for safety and mechanical reasons when the winds approach hurricane levels, Lagiovane said.

EverPower is involved in a number of windmill projects in the region including Highland Wind Farm in Adams Township and Highland North Wind Farm in Adams and Summerhill townships.

While wind gusts may have reached 65 mph at times during the full impact of Sandy in the region, sustaining winds were much lower, said site manager Brad Foy, who oversees operations at Highland and Highland North.

“It looks like we kept operating.

“There were no disconnects for storm issues,” Foy said.

The turbine blades are designed to scoop up less wind when wind gusts at higher-than-acceptable levels blow through, an action prompted by equipment in the nacelles, the component on top of the tower that houses the gear box, generator, transformers and wiring.

“The computer on top calculates the wind speed and tells the blades (how to move,”) said Foy. “It changes the aerodynamics of the wind speed.”

The turbines are equipped with what Foy called a “storm disconnect,” a system that is continually monitoring wind speeds and will shut down the turbine if wind speeds are too high.

A representative of another major windmill farm developer in the region, Gamesa USA, said no issues were discovered due to the storm.

“Our initial assessments found no problems,” Dave Rosenberg, Gamesa’s vice president of marketing and communications, said Wednesday.

“We will continue to monitor our assets as the storm winds down and exits the region.”

Wind farms have been operational in parts of Somerset County for several years and for about five years at the Allegheny Ridge wind farms in the Portage-Cresson area of Cambria County.

There have been few equipment failures related to the windmills, with the exception of an incident in 2007 when structural problems were found in the Fiberglas membrane of the blades.

It was eventually determined there was a problem in the method used to apply adhesive to hold the Fiberglas.

The process was changed at the blade manufacturing plant in Cambria Township.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.