Update: Third GE blade break

Invenergy has suspended operations at its Orangeville Wind Farm in New York State after a blade broke from a General Electric 1.6-100 wind turbine, the third such event this year involving that model suffered by the vendor at US projects.

Photos of turbine number 34 (of a total 58) show the blade snapped near the hub leaving a jagged stub portion in place. Most of the blade fell to the ground nearby. No one was hurt in the early Sunday incident.

The unit’s commissioning had begun on 13 November and it was in operation when the mishap occurred. Construction of the wind farm had been recently completed.

“Out of caution, all turbine commissioning and turbine operations at the wind farm have been suspended,” Invenergy says in a statement. “We are working with GE, the turbine manufacturer, to determine the root cause of this incident.”

It was not immediately clear what company supplied the blades for the Orangeville project.

Invenergy spokeswoman Alissa Krinsky declined comment on the identity of the blade supplier, how many GE turbines comprise its fleet and whether it has experienced problems with other GE turbine blades.

On 7 November, a blade broke off during a pre-commissioning test of similar GE wind turbine at the 112MW Echo Wind Park under construction in Michigan. Owner DTE Energy immediately suspended work and shut down 59 operating units. Blades for that project were supplied from Brazil, according to DTE.

In March, a blade broke from a GE 1.6-100 wind turbine at DTE’s 110MW Thumb Wind Park, also in Michigan. That unit had been commissioned and was in operation. A joint investigation by DTE and GE determined that the cause was an “isolated defect” during the manufacturing process.

Invenergy is among GE’s largest and most loyal wind turbine customers in North America, by far the most important market globally for the US industrial giant.

GE's communications leader for renewable energy Lindsay Theile tells Recharge that the company's protocol with any customer event is to assign a team to perform a thorough investigation. Since each blade break incident is being investigated, GE cannot speculate as to whether or not the breaks are related, she says.

As to the blade's origin, she notes that GE sources components from its global supply bases. "It's our goal to perform a thorough root cause analysis, take appropriate corrective action and bring the turbine back online as soon as possible," says Thiele.

"The quality and availability of our wind turbines is of utmost importance to us and, as always, if there is any issue, we work with our customers directly to address them," Thiele adds,

GE’s ability to dominate sales in the 1.5-1.75MW power segment has underpinned its longstanding leadership in the North American wind turbine market.

Electricity produced by the Orangeville Wind Farm will be sold into the wholesale markets managed by the New York Independent System Operator. Renewable Energy Credits will be sold to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.