Luckily, I’m not an overly superstitious person, or I’d be seriously freaking out. Once more, the early January “curse” has struck our homestead.
In the wee hours of Tuesday morning, we awoke to the wind generator, which didn’t sound quite right. The sound of the spinning turbine had an odd buzz to it, almost like a rattling wheeze. I got up to turn it off, but found that I couldn’t. The “off” switch on the charge controller, which switches the turbine to regulation mode, couldn’t slow the prop as it usually does, nor could our hand-built back up brake switch stop it.
For some odd reason, trouble with the wind generator seems to strike in January, almost always within the first week. For instance:
January 7, 2007: Our original generator stopped charging. We had to take it off the tower and send it in for repairs.
January 15, 2009: We gave up trying to solve a problem with the old controller. None of the techs could figure out what was wrong, although long afterward, I found a short sentence in the original manual that explained the whole problem, and how to fix it. That led to a whole new slew of problems trying to install the new controller.
January 2, 2010: A new episode of controller failure led to installing a third new controller in the course of a year.
January 2011: the brake switch failed. This was the easiest to remedy, and since I’d built it myself, we couldn’t have called for help if we’d wanted to. I overhauled it myself, and had it working in a day.
The system is still under warranty, which means we don’t have to pay for the repairs. However, we do have to ship it off to Arizona to be fixed, at a cost of $50 in 2010, probably considerably more now. Far worse is the time it takes to get the repairs done and the unit returned. I found notes in my planner from one repair job with a quote from the technician that it would take “about a week or less.” We got it back over a month later. That was a good year—in one instance two months elapsed between sending it off and getting it back. They repaired our unit, then lost it on their loading dock. They ended up sending us a brand new replacement. The original never showed up at all.
Despite all this, I managed to take a positive, proactive approach to the new crisis. Instead of going back to bed and laying awake thinking about it, I pulled open the charge controller and ran a few tests with my voltimeter. I matched my readings to the troubleshooting guide, and found that a diode had likely shorted out. With that much knowledge, I went to bed, and soon got to sleep.
The next morning, I opened up the controller and ran some diagnostics. I also found some new tests on the company’s Web site, where I had to go to email them. It used to be they wouldn’t take emails, now they don’t take calls! I assume it’ll be a few days before they respond. In the meantime, I’ve run all the tests I can. It looks like I’ll need to send it in for repair. Luckily, we still have the original controller, that works fine. It’s a hassle to hook it up, but we shouldn’t be without power for more than the time it takes. It’s unlikely we’ll need to pull the generator off the tower, which is the main thing to avoid.
The timing of the incident remains troubling. The only common factor in these various problems is the time of year. We haven’t experienced unique weather at any of these times. I’m tempted to speculate that there’s some sort of computer issue, but that seems unlikely.
The experts say that humans look for patterns so much that we often find them where none exists. Even so, this is getting to be a little too weird.