GE begins blade replacements

General Electric this week will begin delivering new turbine blades to Invenergy’s Orangeville Wind Farm in western New York State to replace a “small subset” of defective ones – a process that will take two months, Recharge learns.

On 17 November, a 48.7-metre blade broke off from one of 58 GE 1.6-100 wind turbines at the facility, which was in the process of being commissioned. No one was hurt in the incident.

GE determined “after comprehensive review and analysis” that other blades would need to be replaced, although it did not say how many.

“Some construction-vehicle traffic can be expected on various local roads, and we appreciate the patience of our project landowners, and others in the community, in this regard,” Invenergy says in a statement.  

The Chicago-based developer notes that the “great majority” of Orangeville’s turbines continue to operate normally.

In December, GE said it determined that the root cause of the blade break and another at a Michigan wind farm owned by utility DTE Energy was a “spar cap manufacturing anomaly.”

DTE says its defective blades were made in Brazil. Industry consultants believe the ones at Orangeville also originated there. GE sources blades and other turbine components from a global supply network.

GE is replacing 33 blades at DTE’s 112MW Echo Wind Park.

Spar caps are load carrying structural members usually made of carbon fibre that help support the blade’s outer aerodynamic shell. Carbon fibre, which is used by GE, allows higher stiffness and lower density to enable a thinner, lighter blade profile.

GE has imposed additional controls in place to prevent future manufacturing problems from happening. These include resourcing GE inspectors who are performing additional quality reviews and data verification, as well as oversight from GE Engineering.

Both the DTE and Invenergy turbines were under warranty.

GE chief financial officer Jeff Bornstein told analysts last month that “supply chain issues, and project and customer delays” had cost the company $100m in margin in the fourth quarter. Roughly 200 wind turbines slated for delivery then will now be shipped this quarter.

He said ongoing work-throughs with blade supply issues could have a moderate financial impact this quarter.  

Consultants say the blade situation does not appear to have affected GE in the marketplace, which perceives it as problem with a supplier, not the turbine. GE booked 779 turbines in the fourth quarter versus 412 a year earlier, principally driven by US demand.

Invenergy is among GE’s five largest customers in the US.