WNYT.com

Turbine trouble costs consumers cash

Posted at: 02/14/2013 2:14 PM
Updated at: 02/14/2013 4:52 PM
By: Abigail Bleck



Two Rensselaer County families claim that their efforts to go green lost them a lot of green.

Their complaint is simple -- turbines that were supposed to supplement residential power, saving money and the Earth, never worked.

The problem seems to be two-fold. The product -- the actual turbine -- has a confirmed defect. Also, according to the families, the person who installed the turbines has been missing in action.

The turbine is likely the most expensive single lawn ornament in all of Rensselaer County -- an $8,300 wind turbine that, according to the owner, never worked properly.

In 2010, on the recommendation of a friend, the Holbritters hired Titan Power Systems to install the wind turbine on their Hoosick Falls property. Titan's owner told them it would help save 20 to 30 percent in utilities.

It spins, maintain the Holbritters, but not enough to actually generate any power.  They say they've never seen any savings and claim that despite repeated attempts to contact the contractor, Titan Power Systems, about the problem they haven't heard from the owner in nearly three years.

That's not the approach the Rohloff family took.  They have not one or even two turbines on their Valley Falls land. Titan Power Systems installed five turbines, also in 2010.

What they did recieve?  An almost $60,000 bill from Titan and, they claim, similar problems in getting Titan to respond to the issue.  Although the Rohloffs do admit the owner was helpful in the beginning. 

NewsChannel 13 reached out to Titan Power Systems' Rick Anderson, who refused to do an on-camera interview and claims he never heard of a problem at the Holbritter house. 

Anderson remembered the Rohloff issue, times five, but blames the manufacturer -- Windspire -- and an inverter problem with the device. Over the phone, Anderson portrayed himself as a victim of Windspire too. 

NewsChannel 13 found another dead turbine in Anderson's front yard in Melrose.  He says Windspire's inverter problem has "hurt us financially...it killed us" because he's never been reimbursed for any of his client repair bills, but his clients haven't been reimbursed for their green investment either.

The turbine manufacturer no longer exists. Windspire filed for Chapter 11 and its assets have since been bought by a Matthew Kouba who contends they are "not liable for an old liability." 

In a phone conversation from Wisconsin, Kouba admits to the manufacturing defect and the company will sell existing Windspire owners with a proven inverter issue a new, warrantied inverter at a discounted price -- in one instance as low as, Kouba's words, $1,400.  Kouba states "we feel it's amicable and just cause on both sides of the fence."  

However, when you're out nearly $9,000 and $60,000 respectively, the situation is anything but amicable.

New York’s attorney general has received several complaints about Titan Power Systems and the company is on their investigators' radar.

New York State has a list of both certified turbine manufacturers and approved contractors to do the install.

Neither Titan Power Systems, the contractor, nor Windspire, the manufacturer, is currently on that list.