A $2.5-million wind turbine at the Dorchester Penitentiary has stopped working and the Correctional Service of Canada cannot estimate when it will be generating electricity again.
The federal government purchased two wind turbines for Canadian penitentiaries in the last five years but both units have caused problems.
A 600-kW/h wind turbine was installed at the Dorchester Penitentiary in 2009, making it the first federal institution to generate a portion of its electricity from wind.
However, nearby residents say the wind turbine at Dorchester hasn't been working in months.
The Correctional Service of Canada won't say exactly when the turbine failed, but it will confirm the federal government has spent $60,000 on repairs.
Officials at the Correctional Service of Canada would not say how often the turbine has worked or how much electricity it has generated since it was first commissioned.
Mel Goodland, a former mayor of Dorchester, said people in the village would like to see the turbine operating again.
"I'd love to see it working. It should be working, if it's there it should be working," Goodland said.
"It's a huge cost and it would be a sin if they couldn't solve the problems."
Goodland said the village council had considered setting up a wind turbine farm in the southeastern New Brunswick community to take advantage of local winds. Local politicians supported the federal government’s attempt to use renewable energy in the operation of the penitentiary.
"But it's too bad that they did run into these technical problems ... hopefully they do get it solved and it becomes a regular feature here," he said.
A Treasury Board report in 2010 said the wind turbine had "resulted in the generation of approximately 20 per cent of their own electricity demands, saving an estimated $110,000 per year in energy costs."
Drumheller facility faces similar problems
The Correctional Service of Canada has faced similar problems with its second wind turbine at a medium-security facility in Drumheller, Alta.
The federal department purchased that 600-kW/h wind turbine in 2008 from Fuhrlaender, a German company. The German company was responsible for the turbine, while its controls were supplied from a U.S.-based company.
In a letter to Conservative MP Kevin Sorensen, the CSC said the wind turbine has been stalled because of technical difficulties relating to the batteries.
The problems escalated when Lorax (USA), which had the contract for the turbine, dissolved before the generator was operating.
The September letter from the CSC to the local MP said the federal government had hired a Canadian consultant to fix the turbine.
Drumheller Mayor Terry Yemen said the turbine was finally seen working on Sunday.
Yemen said people in the southern Alberta community are "curious" and "upset" and are looking for answers as to why the wind turbine has been so problematic.
"Obviously it's a taxpayer expenditure but they're not seeing any results," Yemen said.
While the unit was working on Sunday, Yemen said the turbine has barely operated since it was installed in 2010.