Blade failure investigation

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Brand new blades from Gamesa being tested on the company's recently installed wind turbines at Allegheny Ridge in Pennsylvania have failed, with seven discovered last month peeling, cracking and shedding sections of glass fibre. "This has never happened anywhere in the world [with Gamesa blades]," says the company's Michael Peck. "We're taking it very seriously. We're studying it until our eyeballs pop out and we get an answer. We called in all sorts of investigation experts from Spain and I think we're close to figuring it out."

The blades were made at Gamesa's Ebensburg production plant in Pennsylvania. On discovery of the problem, Alberto Gros, plant manager, said that bits of fibreglass membrane had broken off from the underlying frame on seven blades, reports the local Tribune Democrat newspaper. The failures occurred before the blades had been in operation. In addition to visible cracking and peeling, one blade lost a 2.5 metre section of fibreglass while a second lost an even larger section. Damage to two of the most compromised blades was noticed following fierce ice storms that passed through sections of the Northeast, according to the newspaper.

Peck declines to specifically describe the damage but says local news accounts are accurate. Gamesa, he adds, is not making any guesses at this stage as to the cause of the failures, but the situation is under control and the company "will let everyone know" the outcome of its investigations. Gros said the Ebensburg facility has produced 360 blades since opening last year and many have been shipped to Texas and Illinois where no problems have been reported.

The multi-stage Allegheny Ridge Wind Farm is owned by Babcock & Brown. The company's David Smith says the problem is expected to slightly delay the planned start of what will be a 40 turbine phase of the wind plant.

Local media paid particularly strong attention to the blade issue because Gamesa's decision to start manufacturing in Pennsylvania is considered a substantial investment in the local and state economy. Gamesa employs approximately 700 people in its two facilities located in Ebensburg and Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania. The company's move into Pennsylvania for blade production and nacelle assembly was among the earlier and more sizeable manufacturing commitments in the US to be undertaken by a European member of the wind industry.

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