General Electric has sued Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE) in the UK, jeopardising plans for nearly 2.6GW of offshore wind capacity as the two manufacturer’s ongoing legal battle spills beyond the US.
The US tech giant aims to block construction of at least two major UK offshore wind farms for which Siemens Gamesa is due to supply turbines, and could cause costly delays, according to an intellectual property (IP) expert.
GE claims SGRE infringes its IP rights for a method of keeping wind turbines connected to the grid in the event of a temporary grid-voltage drop-out by using power from the battery packs that typically power the turbines’ pitch system.
The lawsuit – filed with the High Court of Justice of England and Wales at the end of last year – follows similar patent litigation in the US.
First, GE sought to block SGRE’s turbines from the US market, claiming they infringed its patent for zero-voltage right-through technologies for variable-speed turbines. SGRE then retaliated by claiming that GE’s Haliade-X turbines infringe its patents for offshore direct-drive technology. Both cases are ongoing.
The latest lawsuit alleges infringement of the UK counterpart of a patent already asserted in the German and US International Trade Commission proceedings filed in July 2020, according to Siemens Gamesa.
IntelStor CEO and intellectual property expert Philip Totaro warned that the litigation could delay the 1372MW East Anglia THREE East Anglia THREE (1372MW) Offshoreoff Suffolk, UK, Europe Click to see full details and 1320MW Hornsea Project Two Hornsea Project Two (1320MW) Offshoreoff Yorkshire, UK, Europe Click to see full details wind farms, for which Siemens Gamesa is due to supply turbines. He added that similar legislation between Enercon-owned Wobben Properties and Siemens (prior to the SGRE merger) pushed back construction of the Westermost Rough, Gunfleet Sands and London Array wind farms, despite Siemens ultimately being cleared in court.
SGRE stated: “Siemens Gamesa will be defending itself against any of the lawsuits and is confident that features and functionalities marketed by Siemens Gamesa do not infringe any valid third parties’ intellectual property rights. Please understand that we cannot comment on this further due to ongoing legal proceedings.”
Patent infringements in the wind energy sector have threatened a total of $5.2 billion in commercial value since 1995 and patent liabilities persist in being unchecked during project finance diligence of new projects, according to IntelStor.
Totaro added: “One wonders how much longer financiers and insurance carriers will continue to bury their heads in the sand regarding these IP infringement risks, when sufficient commercial solutions are available to mitigate the risk completely.”
GE has another two to three years of patent life left in jurisdictions including Germany, France, Ireland, Spain and Sweden, as well as in the UK and the US, according to IntelStor.
It is exercising its IP rights to drive market behaviours and product perception in those markets where SIemens Gamesa has a discernible lead, Totaro noted.
However, he warned that this tactic could backfire and drive developers to take a second look at Vestas, as they become fed up with project delays instigated by IP litigations.