No one's been killed or injured -- yet -- but a rash of wind turbine failures is jarring a key cornerstone of the green energy movement, according to a new Bloomberg report.
The unwelcome trend of malfunctions -- which includes both breakdowns and total structural collapses -- is being witnessed in the United States and Europe alike. As this rare 2008 video of a collapse indicates, the phenomenon isn't brand new, but insiders say the frequency is spiking.
The Hornslet Wind Turbine Collapse was a spectacular collapse of a wind turbine on February 22, 2008 and it is one of only a few structural collapses that have been captured on film https://t.co/LN4TwJHJMT | https://t.co/4i52AUyIPV pic.twitter.com/mLLz8PJp4w— Massimo (@Rainmaker1973) February 10, 2020
Perhaps most disturbingly, recently-manufactured windmills are among latest string of casualties. “We’re seeing these failures happening in a shorter time frame on the newer turbines, and that’s quite concerning,” Fraser McLachlan, CEO of GCube Underwriting Ltd tells Bloomberg.
Last summer, a GE turbine that had been installed less than a year earlier buckled in half. Within a week, the same model notched another failure in Colorado.
You can see the moment this gas well blows up launching pipe right out of the……….. no wait a minute here, that’s a green energy windmill on fire. My apologies to those who won’t be able to power their toaster ovens this long weekend.— Core Design (@_CoreDesign_) July 30, 2022
Green energy works best alongside O&G pic.twitter.com/ATSy6V4CSP
The failures aren't limited to a single manufacturer or model. The West's three biggest manufacturers -- GE, Vestas Wind Systems and Siemens are all facing hundreds of millions of dollars in additional costs.
Bloomberg reports that Vestas, GE and Siemens Gamesa have all confirmed that pressure to quickly introduce more powerful turbines has led to the stumbles. In response, they're slowing the pace of innovation.
“Rapid innovation strains manufacturing and the broader supply chain,” said GE CEO Larry Culp on an October earnings call. “It takes time to stabilize production and quality on these new products.”
The damage to bottom lines is already appearing: On Friday, Siemens lowered its forecasted 2023 earnings due to elevated warranty and maintenance costs associated with faulty Siemens Gamesa wind turbine components. GE took a half-billion-dollar charge in its third quarter for higher warranty and repair costs.
That financial damage to this green energy sector could be compounded in short order, as a higher frequency of claims is likely to prompt a hike in insurance premiums.
Of course, even when they're not falling victim to define flaws, wind turbines are always under steady attack by nature, with lightning strikes inflicting many casualties ...and putting on quite a show on the way out.
Windmill fire that started a brush wildfire outside of Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania. pic.twitter.com/7NTHUZZMBZ— Rob O'Donnell (@odonnell_r) March 13, 2021
Windmill fire in Palm Springs. pic.twitter.com/xMlQk9J6ke— Joanne_Lopez_Dow🇺🇸 (@dow_lopez) September 16, 2022
You are about to see this video of a turbine struck by lightning in Texas today all over your social media feeds.— Avery Tomasco (@averytomascowx) July 22, 2022
...I wanted to make sure you saw it with the proper sound track. #txwx pic.twitter.com/Kv8rkTO65v
That isn't the only trouble for windmills. After 7 whales washed up dead on New York and New Jersey beaches in a little over a month, environmentalist are pointing a finger at offshore wind farm development and demanding it be halted pending an investigation.