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UK wind farms put on alert after series of GE blade failures

Wind turbine makers GE has confirmed it has launched a “thorough investigation” into one of its flagship models after a series of blade failures.

The latest mechanical breakdowns occurred last week when 48.7m-long blades fell off TWO separate GE 1.6-100 wind turbines at different locations in the US in the space of just four days.

A third blade failure was reported the previous week at another wind farm and now GE customers in the UK are being contacted with news of the investigation.

The company has installed over 20,000 wind turbines worldwide and has received several orders for the high performance 1.6-100 turbine in the UK. To date, GE has supplied or is under contract to supply more than 163.10 MWs of wind turbines to the UK.

Fears of a flaw in the huge structures could be costly to the company and heighten public safety concerns.

When Siemens launched a similar safety probe earlier this year into two broken blades on its B53 turbine it triggered a slump in sales and cost the head of its wind division his job.

Connecticut-headquartered GE has been quick to act and says it will work with its customers directly to resolve the ongoing issues.

Earlier this month, construction giant John Laing confirmed it had placed an order for nine of the 1.6 MW wind turbines to install at its Burton Wold wind farm extension project in Kettering.

At the time of the announcement, Ross McArthur, managing director of renewable energy at John Laing, said: “GE’s 1.6-100 wind turbines are the right machines for the Burton Wold wind farm extension due to their ability to enhance energy efficiency.”

But this week, when asked if GE had notified the company of its safety investigation into blade failures, a spokeswoman for John Laing told GreenWeek: “This is not a subject we would want to comment on.”

The first of last week’s incidents happened on Sunday when one of the three glass-fibre reinforced blades fell off the 80-metre high tower at a wind farm in New York state.

GE spokesperson Lindsay Theile confirmed the events all involved the company’s 48.7-metre blade and all its customers were now being contacted.

She told GreenWeek: “With any customer event, our process is to work with our customer and assign a team to perform a thorough investigation.

“Since each break is currently being investigated, we cannot speculate as to whether or not the breaks are related. We are working to bring the turbines back online as soon as possible.

“We are actively reaching out to our customer base. Blade breaks in wind turbines are rare, however, as with any industrial business, at times equipment malfunctions occur.

“It’s our goal to perform thorough root cause analyses, take appropriate corrective action and bring the turbines back online as soon as possible.”

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