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Faulty wind turbines costly to Minnesota family

With their organic gardens and ample land, Andy and Jessie Welsh had the perfect plan. Living in rural Stearns County, the young couple had hoped to be energy self-sufficient and green. ...From the start, the installation was delayed and marked by setbacks. Electricians had a hard time getting the turbine wired to run properly. When it finally did, the turbine ran for just a few days before they received a call from the company instructing them to shut it down.

ST. JOSEPH, Minn. -- With their organic gardens and ample land, Andy and Jessie Welsh had the perfect plan. Living in rural Stearns County, the young couple had hoped to be energy self-sufficient and green.

"We liked this company the best because it had a different type of wind generator," Jessie said.

For the fully installed price of $74,000, the couple signed a contract for a 20-kilowatt wind turbine from Farm Boy Energy, a company based in Des Moines, Iowa.

"We were supposed to be getting enough kilowatts to power our house and sell the excess electricity back to the electric company," she said.

But when the steel tower and turbine finally arrived in October of 2008, Jessie said it appeared to be scratched and used. It was also a different looking turbine from the one they were shown when they signed the contract.

From the start, the installation was delayed and marked by setbacks. Electricians had a hard time getting the turbine wired to run properly.

When it finally did, the turbine ran for just a few days before they received a call from the company instructing them to shut it down.

They were told there was a problem with the gearing mechanism that was supposed to prevent the... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

ST. JOSEPH, Minn. -- With their organic gardens and ample land, Andy and Jessie Welsh had the perfect plan. Living in rural Stearns County, the young couple had hoped to be energy self-sufficient and green.

"We liked this company the best because it had a different type of wind generator," Jessie said.

For the fully installed price of $74,000, the couple signed a contract for a 20-kilowatt wind turbine from Farm Boy Energy, a company based in Des Moines, Iowa.

"We were supposed to be getting enough kilowatts to power our house and sell the excess electricity back to the electric company," she said.

But when the steel tower and turbine finally arrived in October of 2008, Jessie said it appeared to be scratched and used. It was also a different looking turbine from the one they were shown when they signed the contract.

From the start, the installation was delayed and marked by setbacks. Electricians had a hard time getting the turbine wired to run properly.

When it finally did, the turbine ran for just a few days before they received a call from the company instructing them to shut it down.

They were told there was a problem with the gearing mechanism that was supposed to prevent the turbine from spinning too rapidly in strong winds.

Worse yet, when the turbine did operate for a time, it overheated a control panel, causing some components to melt. Andy opened up the steel control box to reveal burn marks on the inside.

"Here's all the fuses that were blowing," he said. "It even started a fire at one time in there."

Still without any wind power, but saddled by over $50,000 in debt, the couple has no choice but to make their monthly bank payments. They took out a loan to help pay for the cost of the project, leaving them with a $600 monthly payment.

Jessie said she has to laugh at the sight of the motionless machine, or she'd surely cry.

"I call it our $50,000 lawn ornament," she said.

The couple isn't alone.

Farm Boy sold wind turbines to at least 14 other Minnesota landowners who were also hoping to lower their electric bills. Their stories are hauntingly familiar: poor or incomplete installations, missing parts and lengthy delays.

Their investments range from between $50,000 to more than $100,000. Money they spent for work that was never completed.

"(Farm Boy) won't tell us what's wrong with it, just that it's flawed," Andy said. "They say they just ordered new parts from China and they're waiting on them."

The parts finally arrived in mid-August, after the couple waited for more than a year. But the last straw came when Farm Boy said those parts were faulty too and would have to be shipped back.

One week later a letter came from a Des Moines attorney, explaining that Farm Boy was filing for Bankruptcy.

Attempts to contact the company representatives and owner, Anthony Pagano, have been unsuccessful.

The Welshes said they have little hope of ever seeing the wind generate a watt, or at the very least, a bankrupt business giving their money back.

"We just try to forget about it," David said. "The less you think about it, the better."


Source: http://wcco.com/local/fault...

SEP 15 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/22223-faulty-wind-turbines-costly-to-minnesota-family
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