New grease creates sticky situation for wind turbines

May 24, 2019

A crew from Marine Pollution Control continues to clean turbines at Lake Winds Energy Park after a change in grease caused a problem and left nine of them partially blackened.

Sticky new grease was causing damage to the yaw rings and was leaking out at the nacelle. According to Terry DeDoes, Consumers Energy senior public information director, a new lubricant was tried that is different than what had been used for the previous eight years of the 56-turbine wind park’s operations.

“It didn’t work out for us. It was too sticky,” DeDoes said.

Consumers switched back to using the grease it originally used.

Initially four turbines were identified for cleaning. Consumers Energy subsequently decided to check all the towers and identified nine for Marine Pollution Control to clean. Seven have been cleaned so far.

The Jackson-based utility anticipates its contractor will finish cleaning the final two turbines next week, depending upon wind and weather. High winds Wednesday kept the crew from working.

The greasiest spots are being spot-cleaned with a special solution using environmental best practices, DeDoes said. The rest is being power washed. A boom is used to capture water sprayed by the power washer to clean the towers, DeDoes said.

“What people are seeing, is the power washing of the turbines,” he said.

Marine Pollution Control specializes in this type of work, he said.

Brady Selner, Mason County zoning and planning administrator, said Consumers did inform his office of the work, which began in April. At that time only a few turbines were to be cleaned.

Selner said he received two complaints about the situation and is reviewing the special land use permit details the wind park was approved under to determine if there is any follow-up required by his office.

The utility also files a yearly maintenance report on the 100-megawatt (MW) park comprised of 56 Vestas-American Wind Technology V100-1.8-MW wind turbine generators. Lake Winds began operations on Thanksgiving Day, 2012.

Selner said in his year as zoning and planning administrator, he’s only received a few complaints about the once-controversial wind energy park.

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