Turbine failures are on the uptick across the world, sometimes with blades falling off or even full turbine collapses.
A recent report says production issues may be to blame for the mysterious increase in failures.
Turbines are growing larger as quality control plans get smaller.
The taller the wind turbine, the harder they fall. And they sure are falling.
Wind turbine failures are on the uptick, from Oklahoma to Sweden and Colorado to Germany, with all three of the major manufacturers admitting that the race to create bigger turbines has invited manufacturing issues, according to a report from Bloomberg.
Multiple turbines that are taller than 750 feet are collapsing across the world, with the tallest—784 feet in stature—falling in Germany in September 2021. To put it in perspective, those turbines are taller than both the Space Needle in Seattle and the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. Even smaller turbines that recently took a tumble in Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Wales, and Colorado were about the height of the Statue of Liberty.
Turbines are falling for the three largest players in the industry: General Electric, Vestas, and Siemens Gamesa. Why? “It takes time to stabilize production and quality on these new products,” Larry Culp, GE CEO, said last October on an earning call, according to Bloomberg. “Rapid innovation strains manufacturing and the broader supply chain.”
Without industrywide data chronicling the rise—and now fall—of turbines, we’re relying on industry experts to note the flaws in the wind farming. “We’re seeing these failures happening in a shorter time frame on the new turbines,” Fraser McLachlan, CEO of insurer GCube Underwriting, told Bloomberg, “and that’s quite concerning.”
The push to produce bigger wind-grabbing turbines has sped production of the growing apparatuses. Bloomberg reports that Siemens has endured quality control issues on a new design, Vestas has seen project delays and quality challenges, and GE has seen an uptick in warranty costs and repairs. And this all comes along with uncertain supply chain issues and fluctuating material pricing.
With heights stretching taller than 850 feet, blades 300 feet long, and energy generation abilities ratcheting up accordingly, the bigger the turbine, the more energy it can capture. But the bigger the turbine, the more that can go wrong—and the farther it falls.
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