'Third GE wind turbine collapse would be sign something's wrong': insurer

CEO of insurance specialist points to relative rarity of collapses as US wind group continues probe

Any third turbine collapse involving a GE machine in quick succession should set alarm bells ringing at the manufacturer, given the rarity of such incidents globally, said a leading insurer of renewable energy projects.

Fraser McLachlan, CEO of specialist insurer GCube, said the two collapses so far this year of GE turbines at US wind farms is already enough to give pause for thought.

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The US OEM has said that the collapses – in New Mexico in February and then in Oklahoma 10 ten days ago – are being treated as “separate and isolated” incidents.

“We probably see one or two of these a year out of a fleet of many thousands of turbines,” covered by GCube, McLachlan told Recharge. “It’s not that common. In a very bad year you might get three.

“Two that close together, from the same manufacturer ... you would begin to wonder. And certainly one more GE [incident], three, that would tell me there’s something not right there.

“Two I can say coincidence. Another one of these I’d definitely say there’s something going on and GE should be doing something about it.”

McLachlan said recorded incidents of the dramatic collapses have historically spanned all manufacturers, with a variety of factors at play.

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These include the emergency braking system causing the turbine to detach from the tower, or a defect in the towers themselves.

Recharge reported last week how a new study by academics in the UK said the industry needs to do more work to understand the complex interaction of factors at play to bring turbines down.

The study by a team from the engineering department at Birmingham University, which looked at 48 tower collapses between 2000 and 2016, found costs of the incidents varied between £500,000-5m ($631,000-$6.3m).

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