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Windpower Monthly's round-up of 2011

As Windpower Monthly winds down for the end-of-year holidays, we leave you with a round-up of some of 2011's best read — if not most important — wind-energy stories from both the magazine and the website over the last year.

Donald Trump, burning/ floating turbines, and Vestas were all in the news in 2011
Donald Trump, burning/ floating turbines, and Vestas were all in the news in 2011
January

An awkward start for Iberdrola as San Francisco utility PG&E pulls a proposal to buy a 246MW wind project. The utility and Iberdrola end the $900 million agreement to buy the Manzana project, in southern California, just weeks after an administrative law judge recommended state regulators reject the proposal.

Although health and safety in the wind sector has been improved in recent years, 2011 sees a number of fatalities, the first of which was in China. Three workers die in a Sinovel turbine — sadly not the last such accident for the company in 2011.

Lastly, proving that technology is always a popular topic, one of the best-read stories was about French designer Technip’s plan to trial a floating vertical axis turbine.

February

In terms of wind tech, 2011 dominated with the launch of next-generation offshore wind turbines. As part of this, Alstom and LM Windpower announce their collaboration to build what will become the largest blade in the world, to be used on Alstom’s 6MW Haliade turbine.

Falling sales for Gamesa in its Spanish home market lead the company to threaten factory closures. 

Both Repower and Enercon fight legal battles in India, but with different results. As a precursor to a number of IP-related stories this year, an Indian judge rules against Enercon in favour of former partner EIL over the patent ownership. While Suzlon-owned Repower manages to extricate itself from a deal with former licensee Essar Group.

March

Suzlon receives some unwanted publicity when Iberdrola stops production at its 150MW wind farm at Rugby, North Dakota, after the blades fall off one of the project's S88 2.1MW turbines.

Japanese near-shore wind turbines withstand a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami and help compensate for power disappearing from the grid when nuclear reactors shut down.

As part of continuing consolidation in the industry, Acciona announces its search for a partner to help it compete on the global market. In July, it brings in shipping group Navantia.

In terms of new products, GE acquires French transmission specialist Converteam for €3.2 billion. 

April

Vestas launches its first-ever offshore-specific turbine, the V164 7MW. The turbine goes against the grain by using a conventional gearbox.

China’s focus turns onshore with the revelation that a large number of China’s wind turbines have been disconnected from the grid during periods with lower voltage levels.

China also sets the scene for what was to become arguably the biggest story of the year when Sinovel refuses a shipment of components from US supplier AMSC. The resulting reverberations, which led to claims of industrial espionage and IP theft, are yet to play out.

May

With the UK government’s 33GW Round 3 offshore plan continually under the spotlight, its advisor Professor Dieter Helms wades in and questions whether UK consumers will be able to foot the bill for offshore wind energy. In the same month, a UK government-backed consortium of companies including BP and Rolls-Royce launches a project to develop a 90-metre offshore blade.

In the US, Vestas is fined $164,000 over health-and-safety violations at its tower manufacturing facility in Colorado.

June

When Siemens follows Vestas and launches its 6MW offshore turbine, Windpower Monthly gets an exclusive look at the first prototype. In China, Wind manufacturer Guoneng Wind Power Generation builds China's first 1MW vertical axis turbine, in north-east China.

July

One of the biggest stories in terms of traffic, the completion of phase 1 of the 1.55GW Alta Wind Energy Centre project in California is announced after Google decides to invest in the project.

Another trend was the emergence of China’s manufacturers and developers on the global market. Top-5 developer Longyuan makes its first foray into North America with the acquisition of a share of the 100MW Melancthon wind project in Ontario.

August

A number of 6MW+ offshore turbines were launched this year – but one wasn’t: Clipper Windpower’s 10MW Britannia turbine. The project, which enjoyed substantial backing from the Crown Estate and the UK government, is axed by Clipper’s new owner UTC. The UK government later asks for a refund.

The AMSC/Sinovel dispute continued to be in the news, with the former restating its financial results, replacing its CEO and laying off staff.

Although media personality Donald Trump enjoys celebrity status across the world, he was not a likely candidate for Windpower Monthly editorial. However, the coiffeured entrepreneur made his feelings towards the sector clear with an attack on proposals to build a 100MW offshore project near his Scottish golf course, which he branded as "environmentally irresponsible".

September

Japan’s trade ministry says it is planning a ¥10-20 billion ($130-260 million) project to develop floating turbines in the deep waters off the northern coast.

October

An unfortunate accident in China leads to five people dying, including a communist party official and his wife, during the assembly of a Sinovel 5MW test turbine.

Elsewhere, Siemens signs the first project deal for its 6MW turbines with Deepwater Wind’s Block Island project off Rhode Island. In the US, bat deaths are responsible for the shutdown of a 70MW project in Pennsylvania.

November

Mitsubishi joins the list of manufacturers to launch a next-generation offshore turbine with the unveiling of its 7MW SeaAngel machine.

Not such good news for Vestas. Factory delays and poor figure prompt it to warn of restructuring for early 2012 and the ditching of its Triple 15 business plan.

Scottish nationalist plans to build the business case for independence around a ‘clean-energy revolution’ receive a reality check from Citigroup. The bank says Scottish wind-farm owners risk finding their assets stranded and starved of subsidy if the country's government succeeds in its plans for national independence.

December

Turbine failures are always popular with our readers — if not with the manufacturers. Vestas and Scotland make the news again as high winds across the country result in a project being shut down after a turbine catches fire. Meanwhile, in Norway, a 1:6 model of Sway’s floating turbine platform is sunk by high waves.

But to end the year on an optimistic note, final mention must go to Dong Energy winning the Robert the Bruce award for patience. Two years after losing out on the UK’s Round 3 tender, it acquires a share in two projects in the 4GW Hornsea zone.

Looking ahead to 2012, we hope your own endeavors are as productive and successful as they can be, and wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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