The largest wind turbine manufactured in the United States is running into some technical difficulty.
Clipper Windpower Inc.’s 2.5-MW Liberty wind turbines at the 20-MW Steel Winds facility in Lackawanna, N.Y., are malfunctioning due to faulty gear sets.
“At first, we were receiving great performance from the turbines,” said Michael Alvarez, executive vice president and COO of UPC Wind Partners LLC, which co-owns the facility with BQ Energy LLC. “Over the summer, a gear-timing issue in the drive train’s secondary stage was detected in some of Clipper Windpower’s Liberty wind turbines at the Steel Winds site. The cause was found to be a supplier quality deficiency in the drive train attributable to the suppliers’ manufacturing process. As part of Clipper’s warranty, upgraded drive trains will be installed into all eight turbines at the Steel Winds site. Currently, two turbines are in operation.”
UPC Wind partnered with BQ Energy to produce and sell energy, capacity and renewable energy certificates generated by Steel Winds to energy retailer Constellation NewEnergy Inc., a subsidiary of Constellation Energy Group Inc., through 2009, Alvarez said. Clipper is providing turbine operation and maintenance services to the facility under a five-year contract ending May 31, 2012, according to Alvarez.
After the technical problem was detected at Steel Winds, Clipper examined its manufacturing process. “The root cause of this situation is the quality control process to ensure that the timing of the gear sets was correct,” said Robert Gates, senior vice president, commercial operations, at Clipper Wind, a subsidiary of the British company Clipper Windpower Plc. He added that the process has since been corrected.
Altogether, roughly 50 Liberty 2.5-MW wind turbines contain the defect. About 40 Liberty 2.5-MW turbines at Clipper’s Endeavor wind farm and nearly a dozen in Minnesota at Edison International subsidiary Edison Mission Energy’s Jeffers Wind facility require retrofitting as well, Gates said. Gear sets that have been manufactured after October do not have the problem, he added.
“UPC Wind has worked aggressively with Clipper to ensure that they detect and repair the issues with their Liberty turbines at Steel Winds,” Alvarez said. “The turbines are under warranty and Clipper Wind is covering the costs of all repairs, as well as some of the revenue UPC Wind will lose while the turbines are not operating. We are confident all turbines will be returned to service in the near term and will operate in accordance with design specifications.”
A retrofit program is under way at Steel Winds that entails removing the gear sets and replacing them with new ones. Repairs have been hampered by the delay in transporting a crane to the site to conduct the necessary repairs as well as the harsh winter conditions, according to Gates. The first few wind turbines are expected to go online in February and all of them should be in operation by the end of March, he said.
The Clipper 2.5-MW wind turbine is the first wind turbine to utilize a patented, distributed power train and four permanent magnet generators to mitigate loads to components found in many of today’s multimegawatt wind turbine designs. It is among the largest land-based wind turbines in the world. The Clipper 2.5-MW wind turbine is sold out for 2008 and 2009, Gates said.
Steel Winds is the first wind farm to feature Clipper’s new Liberty turbines. Manufactured in late 2006 at Clipper’s new 330,000-square-foot facility in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the wind turbines were shipped to the project site in early 2007 and placed online in April 2007, according to Clipper’s Web site. The project, which was completed in February 2007, was supposed to be done by November 2006 but was delayed due to high winds.
The Steel Winds project is located outside of Buffalo, N.Y., on the banks of Lake Erie. The facility is also believed to be the first installation on a former Superfund site, and may be the largest wind farm in an urban setting in the United States. Steel Winds is a redevelopment of a 1,600-acre plot of land long occupied by Bethlehem Steel. The ground that the turbines are installed on is composed of steel slag, a byproduct of the former industrial operations which, until now, has hindered redevelopment opportunities for the site. Power Magazine named Steel Winds as one of the top renewable plants in its December 2007 issue.
By Jennifer Zajac
9 January 2008
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