CLIPPER WIND TURBINE GEAR FAILURES STOP "STEELWINDS" IN LACKAWANNA , NEW YORK

Submitted by Jeff Buster on Thu, 01/03/2008 - 14:35.

The Buffalo News reports today that the complicated gearboxes on the Clipper wind turbines in Lackawanna, New York have caused the facility to shut down.   The photo above was taken in September of 2007 and shows the eight Clipper turbines on the old Bethlehem slag heaps with Buffalo in the left hand background.

The US designed and built Clipper  turbines are a radical departure from the direction turbine engineering is headed in Europe. 

For the last decade in Europe the goal in wind turbine engineering has been the elimination of any gearbox or gears between the turbine rotor and the generator.  The privately held German firm Enercon produces what I believe are the most advanced gearless turbines using a large diameter annular  generator.  On my visit to the wind energy trade fair in Hamburg, Germany in 2004 large sections of the multiple convention halls were dedicated to gears, gearboxes, gear machining, gear face surface finishing, gear lubrication, gear lubrication heat, noise, and particulates monitoring, gear lubrication cleaning, etc etc about gears.  It was clear from the number of gear engineering, gear maintenance and gear service vendors that gears and gearboxes were a big problem in the wind turbine industry.  A problem to avoid, not embrace - as Clipper chose to do.

So when Clipper engineers went in the opposite direction and designed a turbine with four generators driven synchronously by a huge gearbox with one low speed input shaft and four high speed out shafts – I was very skeptical. 

The present gear problems in Lackawanna were, I believe, predictable.  In my April 4, 2007 field report on Clipper’s Lackawanna installation I wrote: “My bet is that this complex gear train will have maintenance issues”.   And I do not believe the present Clipper gear problems will be fixed by re-manufacturing specific gears or gear teeth or changing gear surface hardness, gear lubrication, etc, etc.

 Unfortunately, this will probably have a negative ripple effect right here in Cleveland where  Advanced Manufacturing is machining the gear boxes for Clipper.  

Clipper will also be seen as a horse with a broken leg – an injury from which I believe it will be difficult for Clipper to recover. 



One expense Clipper will be eating for a while is the cost and maintenance  of dozens of sections of new wind turbine towers which have been trucked to a Lackawanna lay-down yard.  The photo above was taken from Amtrak in November.  Photo of the these tower sections being trucked on interstate 90 can be seen here on Realneo.


Bill Mason, Richard Stuebi and the Cuyahoga County Energy "Task Force" should recognize that their scheme to put  "10 wind turbines about 3 miles off of Cleveland in Lake Erie is a much more radical idea than Clipper’s failure prone gearbox.  So, why is Cleveland using very scarce tax dollars to toy around with such a hairbrained risk – instead of building a turbine tower manufacturing facility or other more proven wind energy manufacturing process which will bring jobs to NEO?


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Technical problems are in the nature of these sorts of projects

Thanks for sharing this higher insight, Jeff.  What lessons will be learned?

Disrupt IT

Clipper Wind lays off workers in Cedar Rapids

I got an email through realneo "contact" the other day from a "redundant" worker who brought me the news that 150 were laid off in January.  

While the US under Obama is poised to push wind and solar energy, it strikes me that these lay offs are out of sync.   Is the reason for the lay offs the inability of wind farm developers to get financing (as Clipper contends), or is there an unresolved technical problem in the product produced at the plant - so production needs to be curtailed while the tech problem is resolved?

One anonymous comment on 1.23.09 in the online version of the Eastern Iowa Gazetteonline blames the gear boxes (gb)

"The GB's failed again the week before the layoffs. FPL and Edison found out and stopped payment. Clipper has 60 days of cash on hand, and no more payments coming in. Ask your plant manager about that. I think the people who did the quality work were phenomenal - those running the show and pushing FAILURES out the door just to get them Xworks for payment should be considered theives."  NB this anonymous comment may be completely unreliable - I have no substantiation for it.

If you are familiar with any  Clipper Wind Turbine production/engineering issues you are welcome to join Realneo and comment here.
 

Failed Gear Box/Failed Product

 As an x-employee that had been directly involved with many plant and production aspects over the last three years. Clipper contiually compromised quality right out of the gate, the goal was simply to make as much money as fast as possible while placing no emphisis on the quality or integrity of there product. The QA inspectors for the most part were extremly under qualified, only having to sign off on the product as a means of a paper trail and sending it out to the customer. My hopes were for placing quality as job one for the customer as well as the general public, which would have benifited greatly from this aspect and Clipper could have become an industry leader rather the an industry embarassment! The Gear Box is a giant monster and old school technology, look around, the companies that are sucsesful manufacture a trimline unit with one large generator and much smaller gear box. Clipper utilizes 4 generators and wants you to believe they have bragging rights in doing so, with the thought the turbine can still produce power even if one or two generators fail, problem is with 4 generators the gear box is gigantic and contains several gears which require prcise timing and gear ratios a never ending issue and never ending problem! Prepare for down time and lost of investment in purchasing these units, I seen it first hand, this is an old horse and should be put to sleep, but if you are still interested in a Clipper Liberty Turbine , I am currently selling my portion of the Brooklynn Bridge along with some excellent ocean front properety in Arizona! Folks let me know if you would like to hear more, I would be glad to share some inside intell with you! Visit Topix and comments on the environment, specifically Clipper Windpower for some excellent insight on this product!

ex Clipper employee - plz provide specificity

 

 Hello Jud!
In order to distinguish yourself from a disgruntled discharged Clipper employee or a competitor out to trash Clipper’s image, it would be helpful if you provided specifics about the gear box failure mode or the specifics which Quality Assurance “passed” which were problems right out of the plant.
For example, with the gearbox, what was the failure mode?  Box cracking, driven or driving gear teeth galling or breaking? shafts fracturing?
If it was the boxes which failed, where were the boxes which failed manufactured? Was it a manufacturing flaw or a design flaw?  What failed? Who designed the boxes? 
I am of the opinion that having 4 generators all mechanically connected is an unresolvable problem. Each generator has multiple magnetic “poles” with each magnetic pole creating “cogging” resistance as it rotates – this “peak and valley” cogging resistance sets up a torque “echo” or torque backlash into the driven pinion gears and into the gear teeth on the pinion which are engaged with the driving “bull” gear.
Unless every magnetic torque “cog” or torque pulse is precisely synchronized back through each of the four gears which drive the four generators – then one or the other of the four driven gears will be taking intense inertial pulses from the driving gear at a rate many times per second.  
These inertial pulses will quickly fatigue the metal at a “weak link” in a gear tooth or shaft or gearbox and lead to failure.
I don’t see a way of precisely and permanently synchronizing the cogging frequencies of all four generators with the entire gear train….even if you could synchronize this pulse momentarily, as the differential wear in the drive train took place, the synchronicity would be lost.  

 

Clear

Please understand that I am not a disgruntle x-employee just looking at ways to beat Clipper down. Issues that I had seen up close for the past three years were very disturbing and very disheartning. Clipper had every opportunity to become an industry role player in in wind turbine energy, even with a product that I believe is old school and far to intriquet. What was needed was extreme quality assurance and precsion inspections utilizing the most experienced quality inspectors available rather than make a dash for cash. You are right on the money with your overview, the generators themselves pose several issues, one of which is harmonics, something they still have not addressed as far as I know. The gear box units continue to see gear shearing and several oil leaks on seals and hydraulic lines, shoot this unit has more hydraulic lines than Carter has pills. Todays technology suggests less is better, reduce the number of moving parts and in this case hydraulic lines and make a more trimline unit, basically build a better mouse trap right? Todays technology is moving towards electromagnetic turbines(Gearless). Really what I suggest is to fully investigate and research this product and measure it against industry leaders and there turbines. The Europeans actually built this type of turbine in the early days, but moved forward with technology and abandoned this type of gear box because of the emense failure ratio and to much down time. I wouldn't want to invest in a product with little or no return on investment. More food for thought here, Clipper is using UK money on R&D of a 7.5 and a 10.0 MW off shore units utilizing the same pricipals as the Liberty 2.5MW unit, research this as well. I was truly hoping when I came on board with Clipper I would be involved in something very special, rather than very sad. Not a disgruntle x-employee, just one who wants to inform and alert the public to always fully research the product you are buying no matter what it is, look at every aspect and compare and evaluate! More later!

The Electrical Worker--Story on Clipper

On April 3, 2009 I received from a source via email the following draft article written by

Len Shindel, Communications Specialist, IBEW,
900 7th St. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20001
202-728-7665
 
I spoke with Mr. Shindel by telephone this morning,  April 24, 2009, and confirmed that he is the author of the article.

 

 
High Road or Low Road in Renewable Energy Manufacturing?
            Hundreds of thousands of jobs will be created in renewable energy manufacturing. Will these employment opportunities be “high-road,” decent-paying union jobs, or will employers take the “low road”—tapping into the desperation of unemployed workers who have already seen too much pain?” The IBEW is not giving up on bringing organized labor’s opportunities to workers in the sector, despite a recent setback.
            In early 2008, some workers at California-based Clipper Windpower’s two-year-old turbine assembly plant in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, reached out to the IBEW seeking representation. Matt Fisher, assistant business manager, Cedar Rapids Local 204, says job safety, respect on the job and the lack of a seniority system topped the list of worker concerns.
            Experienced lathe operators and mechanics with 20 years in industry— many in union shops—were placed on second and third shift, while young workers just out of high school were assigned to daylight hours. Legitimate safety concerns were ignored by supervisors, some of whom had no previous experience in manufacturing.
            Despite divisions in the work force, 70 percent of the bargaining unit signed authorization cards.
            Brian Heins, lead organizer, learned quickly that IBEW had to proceed carefully in the campaign. Workers reported that the plant was in trouble due to substandard gears and other parts of the turbines that were manufactured elsewhere. “Organized labor warned years ago that our nation would pay a deep price in lost research and engineering skills as our industrial base was outsourced,” says Bob Baugh, executive director, Industrial Union Council, AFL-CIO.
            IBEW offered to help workers secure their jobs by organizing to gain them more input in company decisions. And Local 204, which includes a bargaining unit at Alliant Energy, offered to support Clipper in seeking orders and expertise from the utility and making resources from the local’s apprenticeship program available to the employer.
            Clipper Windpower rejected the IBEW’s offer, launching a carrot and stick counter-offensive against the union. After workers’ homes faced widespread flooding from the Mississippi River last June, the company provided them generators and power washers free of charge. After the waters receded, however, Clipper hired a union-busting lawyer from California, held a series of captive audience meetings and broke the union’s campaign. The company’s victory was short-lived. They continued to have trouble turning out windmills that could operate without constant maintenance problems.
            A few weeks ago, Clipper Windpower put dozens of workers on the street—
including almost all members of the volunteer organizing committee—with no regard for seniority. The downturn in the economy and problems with the product are dark clouds hanging over the remaining workers. 
            “If we could have worked with them and helped fix their problems, there might have been a better outcome,” says Fisher. 
            “We know they have some pretty smart workers, but instead of investing in them, they spent their money on a union-buster. They are part of a consortium of wind energy companies producing blades and parts who don’t want any labor unions in this industry,” says Fisher, who is continue to pursue organizing leads at other “green” companies.
            Unfortunately, the Cedar Rapids scenario is not an isolated one. In an article in The American Prospect, Philip Mattera, research director of Good Jobs First, says that a similar organizing drive by the Teamsters was broken at a wind-tower plant in Fargo, N.D. Many green energy manufacturers, says Mattera, are receiving healthy subsidies from states and municipalities even while they lobby against reciprocal requirements that they maintain decent working conditions and wages.
            “If employers are left to their own devices, some of the new green manufacturing jobs will remain substandard,” says Mattera. “It is only through more aggressive union organizing—ideally done on a more level playing field—and government intervention in the form of job-quality standards that green jobs can become truly good jobs.”
 

 

Ecotricity

"Global Cooling" Machine (2 minute wind turbine assembly)

CLIPPER LACKAWANNA UPDATE 1-28-08

As of this afternoon, 1-28-08, the three most westerly turbines have had their nacelles removed - just the tower is standing. 

The five remaining machines towards the easterly end are all stationary - in light to moderate s. westerly winds.

Clear and sunny. 

First hand observation.

Wind Industry in Northeast Ohio Making Progress but Still Uncert

 
Aired Monday, January 21, 2008
The effort to bring wind energy to North East Ohio got a lift last week. Cuyahoga Country recently raised just over a million dollars to study the possibility of building wind turbines in Lake Erie. Also, a recently completed study of the lake's wind speeds offers some promising data. Lisa Ann Pinkerton reports.
Anyone who's braved a winter storm in downtown Cleveland knows wind blowing off of the lake can be intense. But is it enough to generate electricity? For the answer wind energy experts have spent the last two years measuring wind speeds three and a half miles off the shore of Lake Erie, at the historic Water Intake Crib. The data shows that the wind is stronger in the winter than the summer, with an average speed of just over 16 miles per hour.

Jaycox: What that means is it's classified as a strong class 4 wind sight.

That's Kemp Jaycox, he manages wind programs for Green Energy Ohio, an environmental advocacy group. A class 4 ranking is right in the middle of the wind-speed scale. Jaycox says this proves wind maps of the state are correct for Lake Erie. In addition, he says data shows the Lake's wind is steady no matter what height the measurement is taken at.

JAYCOX: If they develop turbines on the lake they may not have to be as tall as they would have to be on land so that would reduce installation costs.

But the six turbines for the proposed for a demonstration wind-farm would still have to be built in water- and that's an expensive proposition. Whether or not building the farm is feasible or worth the cost, is a question the Cuyahoga County Great Lakes Energy Development Task Force plans to answer. It secured just over a million dollars to determine the project's economic feasibility in the next 15 months. The Cleveland Foundation, Case Western Reserve University, and the City of Cleveland, among others are paying for the study. Paul Oyaski Director of Cuyahoga County's Development Department says there are a number of critical questions to answer.

OYASKI: About where the turbines should be built, what sort of economic development possibilities exist …we still have to study the effects of ice, make sure the state and the Army Corp. are amenable to this project …

Despite the uncertainties, Oyaski says the prospect of an Off-Shore Wind Farm in Lake Erie has remarkable momentum, due in part to other states' plans to build their own off-shore projects, including Texas, Massachusetts and New York. And Oyaski says, some other states have an advantage.

Oysaki: There's some competition and I've got to be honest with you, the taskforce believes that if Ohio doesn't pass Renewable portfolio standards that this opportunity could dissipate.

28 states have adopted such standards, which require utility companies to provide some of their energy from renewable sources like wind. Ohio lawmakers are considering a bill that would mandate that 12 and a half percent of the state's energy come from renewable sources. But some are concerned the market for renewable energy right now is too uncertain. So the bill that's passed the Ohio Senate and is being debated in the House wouldn't require anything of utility companies until 2025. Wind advocate Richard Stuebi of the Cleveland Foundation says that delays creating a renewable energy market for 2 decades, and even then, he says, there are no enforcement provisions.

Stubei: It's not a question of whether the portfolio standard I think it will be. It's a question of how much teeth, how much backbone will the portfolio standard that gets passed…actually have. Right now there aren't any implications if the utilities fail to comply with the 12.5 percent target.

But that could change, as the Bill makes it's way though committee in the House. One encouraging sign for wind advocates is at least a nod of support from Speaker of the House John Husted, who says he'd like to see the bill strengthened. But he won't say exactly how - the renewable energy standard is only part of a larger energy regulation bill, and Husted says he'll let the committee process run its course and approach changes as they arise. A house vote on the energy regulation measure is expected sometime this spring.

For 90.3, I'm Lisa Ann Pinkerton.

Wind Should Power Up, Not Power Down

Just days after news reports that Consumers Energy planned to spend billions of dollars building and improving coal-fired electric plants in Michigan - instead of more aggressive investment in renewable energy sources - the National Weather Service on Monday, November 5 issued a wind advisory across much of the Great Lakes region.

Not long after that numerous homes in Michigan - including my own - lost power. Shouldn't it be the other way around? Wind should help keep the lights on, right? Not shut 'em down.

I know, I know: transmission lines from wind turbines snap in storms, too. But it was somewhat ironic to read in yesterday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the gusty winds actually supplemented - rather than diminished - the power grid in Wisconsin. The article goes on to report that one energy company there plans to spend $1 billion doubling its ability to generate wind power.

Meanwhile, the energy experts and politicians in Michigan seem content to power the future with coal and watch the wind blow by.

PAY ATTENTION TO THE GERMANS


Norm,

 

Maybe it is in their dna, or maybe their science and physics and math classes are more advanced, but in my construction career it has become obvious that the Germans have the corner on mechanical competency.   

The Russians can do it most simply, the Italians do it most sveltely, but for a profitable piece of construction equipment, buy German.  When I visited BAUMA for a week ten years ago, I viewed the differences first hand.  If you are interested in construction, I can't emphasize enough that you should go to Bauma!

So when Clipper went multi-gear while Germany’s Enercon was going gearless - a red light was flashing brightly. 

One needed to ask why?  Why the discrepancy in direction? 

And the way to answer this question would be to ask, who has the experience, who has the expertise, and the answer would be Enercon. 

So that should raise eyebrows.

Sure, there is always a new mousetrap, but if the new mousetrap (Clipper) is more complex than the old mousetrap (Enercon),  and maintenance is a key issue with energy generating wind turbines, then where is the advantage in the new design?

Downtime is a major loser.

Clipper’s complexity equals downtime

I have some ideas as to why the gearbox is failing.  I'll post them soon.

 

1,000s on REALNEO want to know why

Your observations make sense to me. Follow the money - who profits from the Clipper ownership and cost structure, e.g. who is paid to maintain these dogs?

Disrupt IT

Are there more reasons for NEO to watch Clipper?

After thinking about what you have observed about Clipper, I looked at their website and financials and they report their heavy loses from the problems they had with this turbine and some suppliers... perhaps the wind task force exists to help make up for some local loses or failures... if there are local connections to the Clipper failures there is probably a cover-up in the works. Keep digging.

BTW... second highest google result for "Clipper Wind Turbine", after the Clipper corporate website, is your coverage on REALNEO...

Disrupt IT

late-to-the-dance mindset regarding renewable energy

I noticed your posting on Clipper was #2 in popularity on REALNEO today, so I revisited the issue, so timely as Cleveland City Council is today buying 50 years of dirty coal to power our next many generations' polluted nation. I would like to bring your attention to an article in the January/February 2008 issue of Gear Technology, also available as a pdf...

The Future is Now for U.S. Wind Turbine Industry--But Who’s Positioned to Meet It?

The impression I get from this very current and well writen piece is that NEO is not currently a player in wind manufacturing, at any real level, and our "wind task force" is putting the community in a state of denial, which I suspect is entirely designed to sell coal... perhaps I'm wrong, but if no manufacturers here have already ordered their wind gearing and processing equipment, for here, then it won't be showing up here any time within the next few years, and by then the manufacturing of turbines will be solidly in the workshops of other cities in America, China, India, and other countries where high quality labor is cheap and manufacturing is technologically innovative, as you should read...

Disrupt IT

the skilled workforce issue

Very interesting article, Norm. Thanks. It is interesting to note how NEO's ED help seems to be flowing toward nanotechnology and bioscience and turning its back on blue collar workforce development when the demand is ramping up worldwide for such uses of our labor force and infrastructure in the region.

This quote from the article caught my eye,

"Who will make tomorrow’s turbines? And that leads to another problem facing players in the wind turbine business—the all-too-familiar state of the country’s manufacturing workforce. Anyone remotely involved in manufacturing knows that the dwindling number of skilled gear designers, engineers and tradesmen has been a drag on continued growth. We’ve all heard the same refrain — what’s the point of having a two million dollar machine on my floor if I can’t find anyone to run it?

“It’s a problem,” affirms Clipper Wind’s Gates. “When I visited some of our suppliers, one of the observations was, ‘You don’t have many younger people here; in 10 years half of your labor force could be gone.’ And they said, ‘You’re right; that’s a real problem.’ I saw that half of their signs were in Polish, and asked, ‘Can’t we import people from Poland?’ And they said, ‘Don’t get us started on immigration policies. We can’t bring in skilled workers from Poland.’”

So I thought about the shameful way RAMTECH ideas were treated by Cleveland Next's Denise Reading when instead of helping RAMTECH's progenitors, she announced that RAMTECH was such a  brilliant idea that Tri-C intended to take it over and do it themselves. Way to rip the rug out from under someone you invite to a forum that promises to help you get your idea from the idea stage to the reality stage. RAMTECH might be up and running now, building this skilled workforce had it not been for someone's desire to expropriate the good idea and wear the pin of foresight on their lapel. But have we seen Tri-C launch RAMTECH in NEO yet? No. In fact Cleveland Next seems to be missing in action. Here’s what you find when you link to their site: http://www.clevelandnext.com/ This is a place where many of us recorded our good ideas for the region supposedly to be helped by all the good folks at Tri-C’ Corporate College. Now we find that our good ideas have been swallowed and erased. What are they doing with that million dollar grant from Key Bank?

We got the call: "Cleveland Next needs your ideas Add another group to the growing list of professional groups trying to make a change in this city. Cleveland Next wants to help you bring your ideas to fruition, by presenting forums over the next several months to guide you. View the ideas already submitted here and submit your idea here. See How do ideas become projects? below for details if you don't have enough projects on your plate." This in the 10.12-10.19.05 Coolcleveland newsletter. Was it a figment of our imagination? No, I remember several people who were there – Craig James, Ed Hauser, David Power, Jennifer Coleman, Martha Eakin and Watts Wacker. So Cleveland NEXT time you get the offer to have facilities and business expertise free of charge, “Believe in Cleveland” that it might be a hoax.

In addition to manufacturing workforce education and evelopment, we need lessons on civil discourse and good behavior in the civic space. What happened at Cleveland Next is I believe what Betsey Merkel refers to as "trashing the hotel".

Speaking of forums for innovation and entreprenuership, what happened to Cleveland Future Center?

So much promise, so little follow through...

CLIPPER TURBINE GOES FOR FED $ GUARANTEE

The following letter to US Department of Energy Secretary Chu is a request for a federal loan quarantee for the Clipper Wind Turbine company.  The letter was brought to my attention by an Iowaian - which I appreciate - and I picked up the letter from IowaPolitics.com

I post this public document and suggest that before/if any US taxpayer loan backing is provided, that Clipper open its books and records and prove that it's need for the loan guarantee is not caused by failures in its product design -  and prove that the cash flow problems Clipper has are a result of last October's market decline. 

I believe Clipper's machine orders have been terminated and delayed because of reliability issues with the gear box.  If anyone has specifics on this issue, please contact me. 

____________________________________________________________________________________________

LETTER

The Honorable Dr. Steven Chu

Secretary

U.S. Department of Energy

1000 Independence Ave., SW

Washington, DC 20585

Dear Secretary Chu,

We understand Clipper Windpower, Inc. (Clipper) has filed an application with the Department of Energy for a $300 million loan guarantee through the Title XVII - Incentives for Innovative Technologies program enacted in P.L. 109-58. Clipper is one of only two American, utility-scale wind turbine manufacturers and has shown significant growth and promise in past years as a viable supplier of turbine equipment. In fact, the Department has recognized Clipper as having the “most advanced and efficient wind turbine in the industry,” the 2.5 MW Liberty wind turbine.

While Clipper is headquartered in California, the company operates a 330,000 square foot manufacturing and assembly facility located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where the Liberty wind turbine is made. Since the production of Clipper’s first wind turbine in 2005, they have expanded to produce and commission over 725 MW of its Liberty wind turbines in 2008 (8% of the U.S. market). Clipper has also developed 250MW of successful projects in Iowa and is working on development of an additional 600 MW of assets, helping push Iowa to 2nd in the nation in wind power generating capacity.

As you are aware, the current economic situation has had a devastating effect on the renewable energy industry. This situation has led to a deferral of over $1 billion in turbine orders, leaving Clipper with a reduction in cash flow of over $400 million, and forced lay-offs of nearly 100 employees at their Cedar Rapids facility. These lay-offs come in the wake of the worst natural disaster in Iowa’s history and one of the worst natural disasters in United States history.

The City of Cedar Rapids was particularly affected by the disaster and is still struggling to recover nearly a year after the flooding. The combined effects of the economic downturn and billions of dollars worth of damage to essentially every aspect of the city make these lay-offs especially difficult for the community and residents now searching for employment. The approval of Clipper’s application for a $300 million loan guarantee would support continued growth with a planned doubling over the next three years of Clippers’ Iowa workforce.

Further development and commercialization of Clipper’s Liberty wind turbine will provide benefits nationwide and help meet the Department of Energy’s goal of generating 20% of U.S. electric energy by wind by the year 2030. We respectfully urge you to fully and carefully consider Clipper’s application without delay, keeping in mind the critical national importance of developing wind energy and the particular need caused by the economic downturn.

Sincerely,

Dave Loebsack, U.S. Representative

Tom Harkin, U.S. Senator

Charles Grassley, U.S. Senator

Tom Latham, U.S. Representative

Leonard Boswell, U.S. Representative

Steve King, U.S. Representative

Bruce Braley, U.S. Representative

gearbox testing

I am also an ex-employee of Clipper(manufacturing engineer for the gearbox division), however I left on my own to pursue better avenues in wind energy. I am not disgruntled in any way. but the truth often hurts. I still have many friends at clipper and dont take any pleasure in the knowledge of their problems. One of my best friends was the generator testing engineer who was one of the 150 let go this year, tragic mistake for clipper, I will hopefully hire him to join my company one of these days.

I tested the gearboxes in 2007, they had many problems, most of which you folks seem to know about, and others that I am not at libery to divulge. There were problems with the gearbox design, it seems that the bugs were not worked out before they started taking money for turbines that were being shipped out without gearboxes. I think they thought they could keep it quiet and retrofit on the fly. BP was the biggest customer and we had given them their own office at the plant so they could monitor the progress. They were never happy because all they found were endless problems with the gearboxes.

I am a graduate of Iowa Lakes wind energy program, I am also an ex-army decorated combat veteran. I have integrity if nothing else. I tested gearboxes until the end of 2007, literally the last day of the year and I still had to fail the last gearbox.  Our test equipment was falling apart, it took twice as long for each test, the process was so unbelievably slap shod at that point I would send numerous reports and requests to higher up that I cannot properly test the GB's without proper running equipment, I never got an answer.

I tested the same gearbox again after I sent it back for rework and it did pass, the timing had been set in the complete opposite direction. I felt bad breaking the news to the techs that the GB failed just when they thought they had a good process. I can tell you that I and the few techs I worked with never did shady testing or passing of crap Gb's,  I dont know if others did, I hope not, there were enough problems as it was.

I originally thought clipper had the best design, revolutionary and out of the box thinking. I was glad to see the US trying to compete with the euros in our own country. Unfortunately this gearbox should have been put back in the box and shelved, and they are thinking about a bigger off shore turbine? please dont

 I also am a former

 I also am a former employee of Clipper Turbine Works in Cedar Rapids Iowa.  I could fill a book with the problems that plague that place.  Massive waste of resources such as time and money. I saw hundreds of thousand dollars worth of material scrapped because of a mistake made by some employee. 

I worked in the electrical sub-assembly department, and therefore had first hand experience in this often.  I could list all day long specific examples.  The main problem is "Good old Boy Syndrome".  Jobs were filled based on friendships, not ability. The "lead" in this department failed a basic electrical test, (after sitting through a class covering all the material on the test), and they changed his score right in front of the class so that he passed.  I am not making this up. Very scary. I was sitting in the class and watched this happen.   The same practices were used for advancement within the plant.  Ask anyone that works there and is willing to be honest. 

It took a year and a half to get them to use static straps while handling circuit boards, then when it was implemented they spent an ungodly amount of money on anti-static tables that just became shelves for storing parts. After two weeks you couldnt find an anti-static wrist strap to save your life.  The tables for working on green board parts was covered with dust. (dust creates static) I was the only one that cleaned it before I would work at it.   Yet they could not figure out why they had such high failure rates on some components.  If you dont adhere to proper maufacturing techniques when dealing with green board components, no one can guarantee the integrity of the product that you are putting out.  I was repeatedly ignored when voicing my oppinion about how material was being handled.

Everyone talks about the gear-box failures (lost teeth etc) but almost every part of these turbines have major problems. 

I have a few friends that still work at clipper, they travel in the field to rework the mistakes made in the original design.  None of them have a shortage of work.

The stories of what condition a lot of these things are standing in the field scares me.  (a running joke is that they leak so much oil that  they will never rust.) 

While I was at one site, the people hired to take care of a GE CLipper combo farm, made jokes comparing Clipper turbines to a cat they had adopted.  The cat had nerve damage and would just sit there twitching its head back and forth all day. This came out of the mouth of an independant contractor that had to deal with Clipper turbines everyday. This was joke, meant to cause no harm, but it is sad.  (because it was true)  

 

Back to the quality assurance comment from an earliear post.   I worked directly with the QA guys every day.  I tested everything that went out the door on my shift.  I was looking to build a lifelong career at Clipper, so I took my job very seriously. So did every QA I ever worked with.   I never passed anything that shouldnt have, nor did anyone else to my knowledge.  We all believed we were building a superior product.  -  That being said, toward the end, before I was laid off, I had troubling experiences.  While testing equipment I was coming across inconsistent issues with a component.  After I brought this to my leads attention I was dismissed as "not knowing what I was talking about" and the problems were smoothed over by some one else that didnt ask as many questions as I did. Only to need reworked after going to the field.  I have two degrees, one in LAN Management and also PC Technology. I was a member of the NSF while in school, and always a 4.0 student.  I also have more than a decade experience working with electronics in all sorts of enviroments.  I know what I am talking about.

After the fact, a man with twenty times my knowledge pointed out that we were making sure that the product turned on once it got to the field, not that it would continue to function properly in a real world enviroment.    This is the reason why most of them had to be shipped back to the plant for rework.

 

I do have some hard feelings about being laid off.  To be honest.  My wages were far less than the money I saved them.  Let alone what I made them.   I was a productive hard working employee that gave Clipper everything I had for years.   They laid me off after the plant manager looked me in the eye and told me that I didnt need to worry about my job.  They laid me off after I was flooded out.  That hurt.

 

 

 

Clipper Wind Turbine company grinds to a halt

Clipper got off to a bad start years ago with their multi shafted multi generator gear box and blade breaking problems.  

When I noticed the recent activity to the original post in this thread, I went on line and found that after United Technologies sold Clipper to Platinum Equity (always a warning when a piranha capitalist gets involved) a few law suits were heckling Clipper.  You can read details here at Wind Power Monthly.

Sadly, this will be the end for Clipper, I believe.