December 15, 2021

Union fury over cracks found in imported wind turbines

By Ewin Hannan, December 15, 2021,

Cracks have been found in wind turbines imported from China for Australia’s largest wind farm, with a national union leader declaring the defects would not have happened if the Morrison government had acted to ensure they were manufactured locally.

Defects have been uncovered in the turbines’ top covers, known as nacelles, imported for use at Stockyard Hill Wind Farm, 35km west of Ballarat in central Victoria.

Cracks have been found in 19 of the 40 turbines inspected and there are a further 100 to inspect. It is estimated it will take up to four weeks to repair each turbine.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union claimed the federal government “sat on its hands while our largest wind farm imported towers from China instead of supporting secure local jobs”.

AMWU national secretary Steve Murphy said “if you repeatedly cut corners to save money, you end up with a market flooded with cheap products that are poor quality and aren’t fit for purpose”.

“We’re seeing cost cutting with imported trains, buses, trams, ferries; there’s an obsession with buying things cheaply overseas. This approach is failing, they need to learn from their mistakes,” he said.

“The federal government has failed working people, it has proven it can’t be trusted with creating secure jobs, supporting local manufacturing, and greening our economy – we need a government that supports Aussie-made.

“While other countries are joining the race to secure jobs in existing and emerging manufacturing industries in the global supply chain, Australia is trailing the pack. Australia has spent the least during the Covid-19 recovery on greening our economy.”

Stockyard Hill Wind Farm general manager Jackson Hill confirmed the cracks in a statement to The Australian on Tuesday. “Stockyard Hill Wind Farm is aware of the issue of the defects in a platform supporting secondary equipment systems within the wind turbine nacelles,” he said. “We are working with the supplier on a rectification of the issue in accordance with prudent engineering and safety standards.”

He said the defects were not affecting operations of any turbine.

Mr Hill said the construction of the wind farm had seen more than 400 employees and contractors on-site, including many local Australian companies.

He said employees of local companies had formed and poured foundations for the 149 Goldwind turbines while 140 tower sections had been locally manufactured. The project employs more than 20 permanent local staff.

According to an AMWU official who visited the site, the company had so far detected 19 turbines that needed repair.

Up to a month will be needed to fix each turbine, with three crews undertaking repairs. The AMWU said the company had said it expected to find further cracks in towers yet to be inspected. In July, Goldwind Australia said the wind farm had passed its first hold point test, and was approved by the Australian Energy Market Operator and Network Services Provider to generate up to 30MW into the National Electricity Market.

Mr Murphy said manufacturing workers suffered because of the Morrison government’s ­“obsession with its gas mining ­donors, meaning it will lock in high-cost, high carbon energy for decades”.

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