United States

United States

Turbine blade split ignites row between Gamesa and Infigen Energy

US: The owners of a wind project outside San Diego, California are scrambling to understand why a large number of blades on its 25 Gamesa 2MW turbines cracked when a fierce storm passed through the region recently.

A Gamesa 2.0MW turbine similar to the model involved in the Kumeyaay storm
A Gamesa 2.0MW turbine similar to the model involved in the Kumeyaay storm

No blades were thrown from the turbines but all are being removed and replaced. The catastrophic damage occurred at the 50MW Kumeyaay wind plant, owned by Australia’s Infigen Energy, an offshoot of now defunct Babcock & Brown (B&B).

A source speaking on condition of anonymity says there is dispute between the owner of the wind project and Gamesa over the cause of the damage, with Infigen arguing the blades should not have cracked in high winds and are therefore Gamesa’s responsibility under warranty.

But the source says that Gamesa has countered with allegations that the operator had set an improper pitch angle on the blades that left them vulnerable to cracking under high winds. Gamesa said it had no comment on the issue. BlueArc and Infigen did not respond to requests for more information.

Modern wind turbines and blades are designed to withstand even the most punishing weather events. For example, Mitsubishi’s 2.4MW unit, considered among the strongest in high winds, can sustain winds up to 277 kM/hour. 

The Kumeyaay project is under management by Dallas-based BluArc Group, an asset management company operating many of the former B&B wind plants.

Local newspaper the San Diego Union Tribute reports that the winds during that event were around 70 mph (113 kM/h), which is high but considered to be easily within the comfort zone of most modern turbines.

A spokesman for BluArc told the newspaper the blades are designed to stop and lock down in winds above 50 mph (80 kM/h). It added the initial reports that lightning caused the damage were untrue.

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