‘GE must act to reassure wind industry over turbine collapses’

Wood Mackenzie says OEM should disclose causes of all five incidents to 'comfort asset owners and ensure safety'

GE must be open with the industry over the causes of the string of turbine collapses that have hit its machines in 2019, to ensure safety and reassure concerned wind farm operators, said a leading sector consultant.

The incidents – the latest earlier this week in Brazil, injuring a worker – are the subject of investigations by the US OEM, which faces renewed scrutiny over the safety of its machines.

“Five turbines collapsing in one year from the same manufacturer will raise concerns among the asset owners using the GE 2.X platform,” Shashi Barla, principal consultant at Wood Mackenzie, told Recharge.

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“GE needs to disclose the root causes for all the incidents to the industry to comfort the asset owners and ensure the safe operation of the remaining 2.XMW fleet.”

Barla said the platform in question is “well renowned” in markets such as Brazil, the US and India, with more than 4,000 deployed by the end of the first half of this year, and more than the same number again due for installation by the end of 2021, according to Wood Mackenzie forecasts.

The first three collapses occurred in the US, with the latest two at wind farms in Brazil.

With early investigations suggesting diverse factors behind at least two of the incidents, and the different models involved from a common technology platform, Barla said only thorough root cause analysis would reveal the full picture.

However, the Wood Mackenzie consultant said the market impact on GE may be limited, at least in the short term.

With developers in the key US market racing to commission projects to meet 2020 production tax credit (PTC) deadlines, and already building them using its machines, “there may not be a material impact on the short-term commercial success of GE in the US.

"in a worst-case for GE, asset owners may switch turbine sourcing to other OEMs."

“GE’s largest customers like NextEra and Invenergy, may not be concerned with such incidents as they have thousands of GE’s turbines operating in their portfolio. They have experience in operating these turbines and may be confident of the technology,” said Barla.

However, “in a worst-case for GE, asset owners may switch the turbine sourcing to other OEMs to fulfil the remaining portion of [their] safe harbour volume [under PTC rules]”.

GE told Recharge in a statement following the latest collapse that “it is too early to speculate about the root cause of this week’s turbine collapse. Based on our learnings from the previous turbine collapses, we have teams in place focused on containing and resolving these issues quickly, to ensure the safe and reliable operation of our turbines.”

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