Turbine builder needs more time

ISHPEMING – After years of delays, design issues and legal problems with the company that owns the wind turbine at the Pioneer Bluffs Apartments in Ishpeming, additional delays in the manufacturing process of the replacement turbine have Clean Green Energy LLC asking residents to wait just a little longer.

The company originally intended to replace the prototype turbine this past summer, it said in a press release Friday, but with unspecified manufacturing delays, it now hopes to bring the WIND-e20 replacement model to market sometime in 2014.

“We have not backed away from the original plan and we are working very hard to move forward on this as expediently as possible,” said Bryan Zaplitny, president of CGE, in the press release titled, “Ishpeming Wind Turbine Not Forgotten.”

The 162-foot tower, which can be seen from many places around the city, has in the past been quite controversial for the city and the Ishpeming Housing Commission, which owns the Pioneer Bluffs Apartments. Some residents have called the motionless turbine an eyesore and the city council has on at least one occasion called for its removal.

“It’s been a long road for all of us,” Zaplitny said. “We are just as excited to have a WIND-e20 spinning outside Pioneer Bluff as the residents are.”

The press release states that the current prototype turbine is completed and operational, but “due to interconnection issues and not being able to agree on an acceptable price for excess electricity sale to the utility, the company feels it is in the best interests of both CGE and the Ishpeming Housing Commission to replace it entirely.”

Though CGE maintains that the current prototype turbine is operational, in fact it has never operated, and was determined to have been too expensive and labor-intensive to produce and install or to run on a large scale, with blades that would likely fail. The newer 105-foot, 65 kwh WIND-e20 will address those design issues, and is also much easier to install. While installation of the prototype required a long process and several large cranes, the new model will arrive on a flatbed truck and can be set up using a hydraulic control system and a standard backhoe.

On Thursday, CGE announced that Burtek Enterprises Inc., a metal fabricator and military contractor based in downstate Chesterfield, would be its “strategic manufacturing and assembly partner” for the new turbine models.

The two companies have signed a memorandum of understanding, according to a Burtek press release, and Burtek “shall be responsible for fabricating and assembly of the WIND-e20” and will work with CGE to “check and improve CGE’s design for cost-effective manufacturability.”

“As a partner of CGE on the WIND-e20 program, we are going to have to be responsive,” said Burtek President Jeff Daniel in the release. “We are going into production in 2014.”

The press release also says CGE is “exploring merger opportunities” with McKenzie Bay International Ltd. – the same company that designed the original prototype, then ran out of money for the project and lost their management team. In 2007, Zaplitny, then president of MTI Energy Management, filed a federal lawsuit against McKenzie Bay seeking more than $75,000 in financial damages and injunctive relief.

Last year, Zaplitny told the Ishpeming Housing Commission that he had invested $8 million of his own money in the project and intended to see it through.

Phone calls to Clean Green Energy regarding details of its potential merger with McKenzie Bay were not returned as of press time this morning.

Zach Jay can be reached at 906-486-4401.