One of PEI’s largest provincially owned wind farms is operating at less than 40 percent of its design capacity.
The Hermanville wind farm, near the eastern end of the island, came online with 10 turbines at a cost of $60 million in 2014.
On Tuesday, PEI Energy Corporation said only four of those turbines are still running, without giving any reason why.
“It’s something that needs to be rectified quickly, because it gets in the way of our goals,” said Steven Myers, PEI’s minister for environment, energy and climate action.
“When you have an asset that looks like this, that works like this, it’s really hard to convince people that this is a positive thing for their community or a positive thing for Prince Edward Island,” he said.
PEI has committed to achieving net zero emissions from energy use by 2030 and net zero emissions from all sources by 2040, a decade ahead of the rest of Canada.
PEI Energy Corporation said power production at the Hermanville wind farm for 2022-23 was about 40,000 megawatt hours, just 35 percent of the 110,000 megawatt hours the farm produced in each of its first two years of operation. .
The corporation said the non-functioning turbines had been offline for between 114 and 476 days.
“I think it’s the bearings that are broken and we’ve had trouble with the supplier to meet our needs,” Myers said. “They don’t seem to have much interest in endorsing their product.”
Nearly $5 million in claimed damages
In 2014, the PEI government said that the 10 Acciona AQ 116/3000 class turbines at Hermanville were the first of their kind to be commissioned in North America.
According to PEI Energy Corporation, Acciona signed a 15-year warranty and service contract with the province, guaranteeing that the turbines would be operational and capable of generating power 97 percent of the time through 2029.
In 2016, according to the corporation, Acciona was acquired by Nordex USA, Inc., part of a network of companies based in Germany.
We cannot allow $60 million projects to go adrift. Taxpayers simply shouldn’t stand for that.—Fred Cheverie
In an emailed statement to CBC, Nordex said the company is “in constant dialogue with the project owner [P.E.I. Energy Corp.] to remedy the situation as soon as possible and I am unable to comment further at this time.”
In a statement Tuesday, the corporation told Breaking: that it has claimed damage payments under its contract with Nordex totaling approximately $4.8 million.
Of that, $1.43 million for the 2022-23 fiscal year remains outstanding, but the corporation said it “does not anticipate any collection issues” with those funds.
The statement did not provide further information on the turbine maintenance issues, but said the corporation is “developing a plan to address the current operational issues with the Hermanville wind farm.”
Myers estimated that the value of the electricity PEI is losing due to broken turbines is between $2 and $3 million per year.
He said the solution to repair the turbines might require “a financial contribution from us, and we may have to look at other means to recover costs from the company.”
Myers went on to say that the province has been preparing to take the company to court, but the province did not provide further information on the potential for legal action.
As of Monday, no lawsuit had been filed in the PEI court system.
In a filing with the island’s Regulatory and Appeals Commission in March, Maritime Electric referred to the drop in production at Hermanville as a “commercial risk” for the private company.
In a statement Tuesday, company president and CEO Jason Roberts said Maritime Electric has included wind power production from Hermanville in its own plan to reduce emissions from electricity use by 2030.
Without most of Hermanville’s production, the company said it has had to source more power through NB Power.
Fred Cheverie lives a short distance from the wind farm and has watched over the past 18 months as more and more turbines have stopped working.
“Everyone in the area has been looking at the same thing that we are. It hasn’t been working well at all.”
Cheverie said he would like the government to reassess its wind power strategy.
“We cannot allow $60 million projects to go adrift. Taxpayers shouldn’t put up with that,” he said.