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Proven Turbine Shaft Problem forces company to close

September 19th, 2011

Times are difficult for wind turbine manufacturers in the UK, where a new (very generous) feed-in tariff required EN61400 tests costing up to €100,000.

A turbine which was one of the first in the UK to pass this safety, performance and noise test, has now been recalled because it has emerged that a failure in the shaft may cause blades to fly off.

Owners of Proven Wind Energy’s flagship 15kw turbine have been told to stop their turbines as soon as it is safe to do so, and the company has now gone into receivership.This is a sad day for a company that was a pioneer in domestic wind turbine production for many decades, and a bad day for the industry.

But questions also have to be asked about how this turbine could have passed the MCS safety test under EN61400 and then show signs of failure within months from the issue of the test certificate. The industry has protested at the cost of the test procedure, the most expensive aspect of which is performance testing rather than safety.

From the Scottish Herald newspaper on 17th Sept;

A WIND turbine manufacturer has gone into receivership following reports of a fault in one of its machines which could result in blades flying off.

Scottish firm Proven Energy is being wound up after sales of its flagship P35-2 turbine were halted amid serious safety concerns. The company has been forced to cease trading and make 55 members of staff redundant with immediate effect.

Machine owners throughout the country have also been told to stop the rotor blades from turning as soon as possible due to “acute” technical problems.

A statement posted on the company’s website said: “Proven Energy has become aware of a potential manufacturing defect in its Proven 35-2 wind turbine.

“We are investigating this. However, our work to date has now shown that a significant number of shafts may be affected across multiple manufacturing batches. With that in mind we are now advising all Proven 35-2 owners to place their wind turbines on brake as soon as it is safe to do so.”

We are now advising all Proven 35-2 owners to place their wind turbines on brake as soon as it is safe to do so

The firm, which has its manufacturing facility in Ayrshire and its administration office in East Kilbride, has been forced to cease trading as a result of the defect and an inability to obtain necessary additional funding.

Blair Nimmo and Tony Friar, of KPMG, have now been appointed joint receivers of the company. Mr Nimmo, head of restructuring for KPMG in Scotland, said: “Proven Energy is a well-known brand in the small-wind sector having been established for more than 30 years.

“Although Proven has achieved substantial turnover growth in recent years, the company has made significant losses as it focused on product development, making it difficult for the business to cope financially with the cost of the product failure.

“Unfortunately, with limited manufacturing taking place, 55 staff have been made redundant with immediate effect. We have retained 20 employees to assist us and prepare the business for sale. We are working with Government agencies to ensure the redundant employees obtain as much assistance as possible.”

Proven Energy was largely backed by renewable energy fund Low Carbon Accelerator Ltd (LCA), which had invested more than £11 million in the firm.

LCA shares suffered their biggest drop in the London trading markets earlier this week when the defects were announced. The shares fell by 43% to 14.5p – the largest reduction in price since the fund was listed in October 2006.

A statement by LCA said: “We have been informed by the board of Proven that due to a recent and acute technical defect discovered on three turbines they have resolved to advise all users of their P35-2 turbine to temporarily brake these systems and to suspend sales of this model.

“As a result of this acute technical defect and the sus-pension of sales of the P35-2 model, exacerbated by the current difficult planning environment, Proven is now incurring losses that it cannot sustain without a further injection of cash.”

An NFU Scotland spokesman said: “We are urging all those who have installed Proven 35-2 wind turbines to heed the manufacturer’s advice and place their wind turbines on brake as soon as it is safe to do so. The 35-2 is a popular model and we understand that as many as 500 of these are in use across the country.”

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