Faulty Turbines Sending Siemen’s Wind Power Division Broke as Samsung Cuts & Runs from Europe
November 16, 2014 by stopthesethings
German fan maker, Siemens has been running a huge propagandacampaign in South Australia over the last couple of weeks, surrounding the opening of the extension of the Snowtown wind farm – wheeling in Australia’s 2011 Tour de France winner, Cadel Evans as their pet-pedal-powered mascot.
And its highly paid wind farm ambassador, Tim Flannery – Australia’s world-renowned (but self-appointed) long-range weather forecaster – has been on the front foot in the press in recent weeks screaming about imminent “global incineration”. Tim’s “solution”? Why more giant (Siemens) fans, of course!
Not that he makes much noise about it, but Tim sits on Siemen’s Sustainability Advisory Board and – true to the title – has been working flat-out to “sustain” Siemen’s ability to flog its fans in Australia – with a mix of hysterical hectoring and overweening political pressure – all built around the mystical ability of wind turbines to suck CO2 out of the sky and drop world temperatures on a made-to-measure basis. A bit like a heavenly thermostat, apparently.
Although, being a loyal and faithful servant of his German masters, Tim hasn’t limited himself to just being Siemen’s top fan salesman. Oh no – Siemens is in the Carbon Capture & Storage business – so Tim took to spruiking the merits of CCS as only a recent “convert” could.
This little “switcheroo” required Tim to bury his hitherto well-publicised revulsion to coal:
Interviewed in 2007, he likened the coal industry – which employs thousands of Australians and provides the vast majority of our cheap power generation – to those that had sold asbestos. He also argued their ‘social license to operate’ should be withdrawn. A year before, he wrote that ‘the old coal clunkers need to be closed as quickly as possible’ and proposed that they be replaced with hitherto unproven technologies like geothermal and wave energy (see this article for more).
One thing’s for sure, this boy knows how to sing for his supper!
Tim – an expert on extinct giant Australian marsupials – and obviously the first person you’d call when it came to water management issues – predicted right throughout one of Australia’s frequent, prolonged droughts – that it would be “hotter and drier forever”.
Check out his doomsday interview with Maxine McKew in 2005 – here – a classic example of how being wedded to a delusional belief in “Catastrophic Global Warming” overtakes history and science all in one breath. He kept that rubbish up – right until the floods started in Queensland in December 2010 – a totally normal La Nina related flooding event – preceding the three wettest years (on average) recorded since white settlement. In 2013, Adelaide – in the driest State – recorded one of its wettest Julys ever. Onya Tim!
If it was just a bit of good-ol-fashioned shamanism, you might forgive Tim for his over-blown rantings – but his doomsday drought prophecies came with a multi-$billion price-tag. Tim warned that Australian cities would all die of thirst: the “solution”? Massive desalination plants for Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Adelaide (all bar Perth’s were mothballed, no sooner than the concrete had set). Thanks Tim!
But this wasn’t all wasted effort on Tim’s part. Oh no, through his “it’s desal or death” mantra Tim was able to help “sustain” Siemens – it bagged a very big slice of the desal plant action.
But Tim may need to think about where his next meal is coming from, as his paymaster’s wind power division hits the wall. Not only did Siemens find itself in huge strife being convicted of bribery and corruption – leading to hundreds of $millions in fines (see our post here) – its wind turbine arm is losing money hand-over-fist. The problem?: Siemens turbines are suffering catastrophic bearing and blade failures, requiring urgent, wholesale replacements. Here’s Reuters setting out a little of Siemen’s escalating financial woes.
Turbine faults cost Siemens €223million
Wind Power Monthly
6 November 2014
GERMANY: Costs related to faulty wind turbines have hit Siemens’ results, forcing the wind division into a loss for both the fourth quarter and 2014.
The German manufacturer said it was impacted by EUR 223 million in charges for inspecting and replacing main bearings in onshore turbines, as well as repairing blades on both onshore and offshore turbines.
Head of the Siemens energy business Lisa Davis said: “The charge is related to inspecting and replacing bearings due to the early degredation in certain turbine models. We believe this is related to recent batches of bearings and we are in discussions with the supplier.”
She said that the blade degredation was due to “harsh weather conditions both onshore and offshore”. She added that Siemens has “implemented a design change for leading edge protection” for new blades and will be implementing a “similar retrofit” for existing blades.
These faults resulted in a loss for the wind division of EUR 66 million in the quarter to the end of September. This compares with a profit of EUR 179 million a year before. Revenue remained steady at EUR 1.62 billion.
For the year, the division made a loss of EUR 15 billion, compared to a profit of EUR 306 billion despite a 6% increase in revenue to EUR 5.5 billion.
Siemens has previously had issues with faulty blades and bearings. Blade breakages on a number of onshore turbines last year caused the curtailment of 700 turbines worldwide. And in 2010, the company was forced to carry out maintenance work on four offshore wind farms after it was discovered the bearings in the 3.6MW turbines’ were corroding.
In addition to the write down due to turbine faults in the latest quarter, the wind division’s performance was adversely affected by a lower profit contribution from the higher margin offshore business. The division’s margin slumped from 11.1% to negative 4% in the latest quarter.
Wind Power Monthly
One of the wilder claims made by the wind industry and its parasites is that wind power production costs will inevitably fall (sometime over the next space-time-continuum, apparently) – some fantasists even go so far as to claim that wind power is already cheaper to deliver than coal and gas-fired power – as to which, see our post here.
However, the fact that Siemen’s turbines – barely out of the factory – need wholesale bearing and blade replacement doesn’t bode well for claims that wind power production costs fall over time: a line that’s proved to be nothing more than hot air – as blades continue to fracture; and bearings, generators and gearboxes wear out twice as fast as predicted (see our post here). And more and more turbines spontaneously combust (see our post here). The cost of replacement is phenomenal (see our post here).
Bearings: The Achilles Heel of Wind Turbines
26 August 2014
A few years ago, I used to know a senior wind turbine engineer. One evening, over a few beers, he told me the dirty secret of his profession:
“The problem is the bearings. If we make the bearings bigger, the bearings last longer, but making the bearings larger increases friction, which kills turbine efficiency. But we can’t keep using the current bearings – replacing them is sending us broke. What we need is a quantum leap in bearing technology – bearing materials which are at least ten times tougher than current materials.”
At the time there was very little corroborating online material available to support this intriguing comment – but evidence seems to be accumulating that bearings are a serious problem for the wind industry.
Siemens citing bearing failures as part of the reason for a substantial fall in profit:
In the announcement of the opening of a new Siemens research facility:
“… The Brande test center would evaluate the main parts of their wind turbines such as main bearings …”
https://www.geartechnology.com/newsletter/0112/drives.htm (an attempt to make direct drive turbines, to reduce bearing wear) “… More accurately, it is typically the bearings within the gearbox that fail, in turn gumming up the gearbox, but that’s a story for another time. …”
“… During summer 2010 Siemens decided to change the blade bearings on all 25 turbines as a pre-emptive measure after corrosion was found in blade bearings found on other sites. …”
Of course, there is the occasional video of catastrophic turbine failure:
And suggestions that the industry is trying to conceal the scale of the turbine fire problem:
All of which creates an interesting question – just how much of our money is the government prepared to waste, to keep their wind dream afloat? If the costs are far greater than the industry admits, how long is the wind industry going to carry that additional hidden cost, before they try to push the costs onto taxpayers, or abandon wind technology altogether?:
Meanwhile, in yet another sign the walls are falling off of the wind industry’s gravy train, Korean fan maker, Samsung has pulled the plug on its European operations; and appears set to abandon major projects on its home turf.
Samsung winds down European wind activities
Wind Power Monthly
SOUTH KOREA: Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI) has shut two of its wind energy offices in Europe and is downsizing its wind business in Korea.
A spokesperson confirmed that SHI has shut down wind activities at its Hamburg and London offices, but denied that the company was pulling out of wind altogether.
“We are now downsizing the [wind] business based on our new strategy. It has not been closed down,” she said. The company refused to comment further.
A source within the company said that SHI would still explore opportunities in Europe, but was unable to define what those activities would be.
Windpower Monthly reported in June that SHI was initiating a review of its offshore activities in Europe.
The London office had been the base for the marketing of the 7MW offshore turbine, a prototype of which started operating in Scotland earlier this year. SHI said that the ship building division would continue to operate out of the London office.
While the spokesperson said that the offshore project is still alive, she was unable to point to any activity concerning plans to take the turbine into production.
Windpower Monthly spoke to a number of Korean employees that had been moved from their previous positions in the wind division to roles in the shipbuilding business.
Several employees said that SHI was winding down the division entirely, but the company said that this is merely a “rumour”.
The fate of the 7MW prototype at the Fife Energy Park in Scotland is unclear. A spokesperson for Fife council, which is running the project in conjunction with Scottish Enterprise, said that activities are continuing to certify the turbine. SHI said it is still operating an office at the energy park.
SHI also had plans to construct the 84MW Daejeong offshore wind project in South Korea, but it is not known whether it will go ahead with the development.
Wind Power Monthly