Structural problems have been discovered in seven blades at the massive Allegheny Ridge Wind Farm project, blades that were manufactured at Gamesa’s Ebensburg-area plant.
Bits of the Fiberglas membrane have broken off from the underlying frame over which they are stretched on 143-foot-long blades. The turbines in question had not begun spinning.
Plant Manager Alberto Gros told officials of Portage and Washington townships Wednesday the deficiencies are highly irregular. The townships are part of the Allegheny Ridge Wind Farm at the Cambria-Blair county border, which will become the state’s largest wind-turbine site.
“The failure that we see here, from our perspective and our experience, is very rare failure,” Gros said Wednesday. “We haven’t seen it before.”
While a cause has not been determined, Gros said it appears the more pliable Fiberglas is not staying securely bonded to the harder Fiberglas and plastic mold.
All seven blades were on the towers when the Fiberglas cracking was discovered.
Inspectors found no problems on other turbines at the site.
Two started to come apart but at no time did any of the falling Fiberglas land outside the designated secure area around the windmills, Gros said.
To date, the plant ““ which opened last year ““ has produced 360 blades, Gros said.
Many have been shipped to Texas and Illinois, where no problems have been reported.
Those that started to break were in Washington and Portage townships. One blade lost an 8-foot section of Fiberglas; the second lost a much larger piece, Gamesa officials said.
One of the two most severely damaged blades was noticed following an ice storm in January and the second one after last week’s storm.
“Piece by piece, they slowly just peel apart,” Gros said.
The first of the defective blades was brought back to the Ebensburg plant Wednesday and testing is already under way, Gros said.
“We’re starting to bring them down as soon as the wind gives us a break,” he said, adding that Gamesa experts from Spain have been called into the investigation.
Everything will be examined, including raw materials, plant processes, transportation, cold weather and even possible lighting strikes, said Ellen Lutz, Gamesa’s director of development for the Atlantic Region.
The problem is expected to slightly delay the planned start of what will be 40 windmills in the first phase of the farm, said David Smith, of farm owner Babcock & Brown.
“It could slip into April,” Smith said of the projected start. “We’re all trying to proceed as quickly and safely as possible.”
The deficiencies came to light at a Wednesday night meeting called to ink an agreement between Gamesa and Washington and Portage townships about further development of the wind farm. The deal was signed.
By Kathy Mellott
21 March 2007
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