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Series of blade repairs underway -- More Clipper problems

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American wind turbine manufacturer Clipper Wind says it is having to "reinforce" the blades on about 260 wind turbine rotors, 150 of which have already been delivered to customers and are in various stages of deployment in the field. The announcement comes as Clipper enters its second year of full volume production of its 2.5 MW wind turbine and comes on the heels of a drivetrain problem uncovered last year requiring extensive repair work (Windpower Monthly, October 2007).

"Based on observations made during initial operation of the Clipper fleet and on-going rotor blade validation testing, Clipper will be implementing a rotor blade reinforcement program to increase blade design margins and ensure 20-year design life," says the company. It estimates the work will cost around $15 million, including penalties for delayed deployment of the units for customers.

Part of that sum includes some overlap with the cost of ongoing drivetrain repairs as the two tasks are co-ordinated to minimize cost. From a combined total of 145 turbines produced in 2006 and 2007, 63 required drivetrain work. As of December 31, the first eight replacement drivetrains had been completed. Most of Clipper's drivetrain remediation and blade reinforcement program is expected to be completed by the third quarter of the year, depending on factors such as weather and crane scheduling.

Combined estimated costs associated with the blade upgrade program, drivetrain remediation plan, high speed pinion and other minor component upgrades, is expected to cost $33 million, says the company, which is traded on the Alternative Investment Market of the London stock exchange. The company warns that its financial results for the second half of 2007 will be similar to net losses seen in the first half of the year that totalled $78 million. Clipper expects turbine delivery delay penalties of up to $12 million to be incurred over the next 12 months

Despite the run of technology problems, orders for Clipper turbines are still coming in. Just before the turn of the year, American power producer AES placed a firm order for 50 Liberty turbines for 2009 delivery. Clipper states that "2008 is expected to be a transitional year in which substantial revenues are recognised and margin improvements start to materialise in second half results."

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