Strong criticism of turbine service -- Vestas in firing line

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Vestas is consistently failing to fulfil its contractual obligations with regard to wind turbine service in Denmark, reports the Danish Wind Turbine Owners Association. An increasing number of its members are sending in complaints about both lack of service and poor quality of maintenance work. Despite contracts that stipulate six monthly service and maintenance schedules, give or take a month either side, owners are reporting gaps of up to 11 months between visits from Vestas' technicians.

"This is of course completely unacceptable. When Vestas itself has set the frequency of service visits, this must of course be adhered to," says Strange Skriver, the association's chief technical consultant. He has collated the complaints from owners and discussed the problem at length with Vestas.

"The reason for why the fixed interval between services visits has been allowed to slide is because in that period Vestas has not had the necessary staff. Some of those employed in the service department have left the company for various reasons," says Skriver. "At the same time, Vestas has reorganised the department's work so that each vehicle with two service technicians must maintain all the wind turbines in a given area. In the long term this should minimise time used on transport, but short term it leads to delays because technicians have to be trained in servicing turbine models they have not worked on before."

Exacerbating the problem, Vestas also needs to train new technicians to replace those who have left before they can join the service team and contribute to the daily workload. But the pressures on Vestas to meet its service schedules have led the company to send technicians out to find errors on wind turbines they are not familiar with. "Several turbine owners have provided us with glaring examples of this," says Skriver.

Vestas is far from happy with the situation, continues Skriver. Because the company has failed to live up to its contractual obligations, turbine owners are free to agree new service obligations with independent companies. Several have done so. Vestas now believes, however, that it is in a position to carry out satisfactory and timely service on all wind turbines with six-monthly service contracts.

There is no point in trying to rectify the missing periods of maintenance by carrying out service at more frequent intervals, says Skriver. Instead he recommends starting with a complete overhaul, no matter when the last service check was carried out, after which the routine six monthly technician visits should be started up again.

No experience

"Vestas tells us they have technicians on courses all the time and as much training is carried out as possible. But training alone can't make a good technician. Experience in the field is an import part of training," says Skriver. He fears that poor quality service will be experienced by owners for some time yet, even though Vestas is trying its best to make sure technicians are part of a two man team and that at least one of them has extensive experience.

"We have, however, experienced that Vestas has sent technicians out on jobs who did not have the necessary experience to solve the problem in the best way. This has caused time to be wasted on more visits to complete the job." Vestas has said that when deciding the sum to be invoiced, it will consider each individual case separately.

Skriver points out that extra delays are likely after Vestas' decision, following the recent incidents of thrown blades (main story), to check the mounting bolts of all blades on turbines it has responsibility for. "In this case we must not blame Vestas, especially when the checks are being carried out without cost to turbine owners."

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