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Tags: wind turbines | green energy | u.s. | europe

Wind Turbines Collapsing, Malfunctioning in US, Europe

wind turbine

By    |   Monday, 23 January 2023 01:39 PM EST

Mike Willey was feeding his cattle on a calm day in June in Oklahoma when he got the call that one of the massive turbines at an area wind farm had collapsed. The chief of the volunteer fire department in Ames, 90 miles northwest of Oklahoma City, set out to assess the damage.

Once hundreds of feet tall, the steel turbine tower was bent in half, with the turbine blades scattered across the field. The rotation of the blades had once made the machine taller than the Statue of Liberty.

"It fell pretty much right on top of itself," Willey told Bloomberg.

The turbine had been in operation for less than a year and was manufactured by General Electric Co., according to Bloomberg.

A few days later, another GE turbine of the same model collapsed in Colorado, with the wind farm's owner-operator, NextEra Energy Inc., attributing the collapse to a blade flaw. The company said it and GE had taken action to prevent future system failures.

A GE spokesperson declined to comment to Bloomberg on both cases.

The incidents are part of a spate of recent wind turbine malfunctions in the U.S. and Europe, with some industry veterans saying they're happening more frequently, even if only in a fraction of installed machines.

The three largest Western turbine makers — GE, Vestas Wind Systems, and Siemens Energy's Siemens Gamesa unit — have incurred hundreds of millions in costs as a result of the problems, which could result in more expensive insurance policies.  

People in the industry cited the scramble to add production lines for increasingly bigger turbines as a major factor in the turbine failures.

"We're seeing these failures happening in a shorter time frame on the newer turbines, and that's quite concerning," Fraser McLachlan, chief executive officer of GCube Underwriting Ltd., told Bloomberg.

GCube Underwriting Ltd., based in London, reportedly insures about $3.5 billion in wind assets in 38 countries.

According to McLachlan, insurance premiums could increase or new coverage limits could be imposed if the malfunctions continue.

During recent calls with analysts, GE, Vestas, and Simens Gamesa have confirmed that the drive to quickly develop more powerful machines has created challenges — and they say they are focused on improving manufacturing.

"Rapid innovation strains manufacturing and the broader supply chain," GE CEO Larry Culp said on an earnings call in October. "It takes time to stabilize production and quality on these new products."

While there's no publicly available data on turbine failures industrywide, Vestas and GE have said that the numbers of their inoperative machines have increased. Siemens Energy this month revised its earnings outlook downward for 2023, citing elevated costs due to flaws in the company's installed turbines.

Wind farms generally produce power from a number of turbines across a site, which means they can continue to generate electricity if one or more machines go down. Examples of turbines dramatically malfunctioning have captured public interest in the past, such as when a 784-foot-tall turbine collapsed in September in Germany, or when a new turbine fell in Lithuania last March.

© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Recent wind turbine malfunctions across the U.S. and Europe are happening more frequently, industry veterans say, partly because of "rapid innovation strains."
wind turbines, green energy, u.s., europe
Monday, 23 January 2023 01:39 PM
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