Our wind turbine is like a family member – we’ve got used to its various noises, from a gentle thrum of a light breeze to the light aircraft sound it makes in a high wind, and a variety of rumbles in between. So at first, I wasn’t sure whether I could hear a new noise, an unfamiliar noise. For a couple of days I decided that it was just a rattly cable, and nothing to worry about. When it didn’t vanish though, I knew it was definitely a New Noise, and that something was going on. A noise that was somewhere between something coming loose, and something grating – definitely nothing good. There was still power coming out of the turbine however, and I decided to wait and see.

Then quite out of the blue I got an email from Gerry from Kerry. Our Bornay wind turbine is uncommon here in Ireland, and though ours has always coped with the wind, Gerry lives up a mountain and his experience hadn’t been so good. In fact he’d had to replace the Bornay with a larger Proven turbine, and the Bornay had sat in the shed. Then he’d spotted our Bornay on a blog somewhere and very kindly offered us the unused Bornay, which incidentally happened to be the same, pretty rare grid tie version that we have. I managed to find an unused inverter to offer as at least some exchange towards what was amazing generosity on Gerry’s part.

Gerry has been in the renewable energy business for many years and is one of very few people who know about Hydro power here in Ireland, as well as installing Solar, Wind and Biomass all over the south west of Ireland. https://www.windwatersolar.net/

Of course I jumped at the chance, and then realised just how far away Co.Kerry is. Gerry and Isabel very kindly put me up over night to break the 6 hour each way drive, which was well worth it – Kerry is a beautiful corner of the country, and one I hadn’t seen before. We spent some time carefully lashing the 6 metre sections of mast to the trailer before I set off somewhat apprehensively for home. Though a sunny day, the threat of an orange weather warning and the arrival of storm Brendan behind me was enough to keep me motoring on. Our ratchet strap and roping turned out to be solid, and I made it back without incident, thankfully.

Sure enough the next morning storm Brendan arrived, and having woken up all pleased with our new acquisition, I made the discovery that our own turbine had stopped producing power, and then sat all day through the storm, running free with no load to slow it down. My concern was that whatever had been wrong with it was now an awful lot worse, but until the wind dropped there was nothing I could do.

The following morning, the wind had died down, so I unearthed our old electric winch, and lowered the mast. Sure enough, the damage to the turbine was plain to see. The Bornay turns out of the wind by tipping up, and the frame that allows this had come completely undone – no idea how. This seems to have put strain on the 3 wires from the windings of the generator coils, which had then burned out the connectors completely – no wonder we weren’t getting any power.

So a day of urgent undoings to remove the stricken generator, and then to replace it with the one from Kerry, all the time hoping fervently that it was actually the same version and that it would work having been sat in a shed for a while. So I held my breath when the turbine was back in the air, and reconnected. A few heart stopping moments as the inverter refused to connect, and then finally it stopped complaining and began to generate. Rarely have I been as relieved to see a small steady green light appear on a control panel.

Then it was off to Grants Electrical in Ballymena to get our scorched looking generator tested, followed by a thorough clean up of our turbine blades, which after two years are a bit battle scarred. I’ll be fixing them up with some fibreglass and resin, before putting on new prop tape to protect the blades. Now we just have to wait to see what Grants say about the state of the generator, as repairs are never cheap. My hope is that we’ve got away it and its just the connectors that look scorched.

Now a job for the summer will be to replace our existing mast, which is incredibly heavy and hard for the winch to lift, with this replacement, which is about a third of the weight and a little taller, and we’ll have plenty of spares. I think I’ll swap the turbine heads every year and check and repair each one in turn so that they’re always well maintained.