A sea of change in the Wind Power Industry: Challenges and Potential Impacts

  • 02 Nov 2023
  • Read 5 mins read

Where is the wind blowing?

The wind power industry, known for its contribution to sustainable energy, stands at a pivotal juncture. Recent troubles have arisen, leading to concerns that the problems of one major company may indicate wider challenges across the industry. Here's what's happening and the potential implications for the entire wind energy sector.


Billion-Dollar Setback at Siemens Gamesa

Siemens Gamesa, a major wind turbine manufacturer, is facing a crisis that has raised eyebrows throughout the sector. The parent company, Siemens Energy, reported a record loss, primarily due to issues within Siemens Gamesa's wind division. These issues stem from a "substantial increase in failure rates of wind turbine components." 


Siemens Energy CEO Christian Bruch acknowledged that the situation was more severe than anticipated and that certain issues had been overlooked. This admission resulted in a steep plunge in Siemens Energy's stock prices, casting a shadow of concern across the entire industry. (Source: CNBC)


Industry-Wide Teething Problems

Analysts have raised questions about the rapid expansion of the sector. The pace of growth, coupled with the relatively short usage history of many components in larger turbines, has exposed inherent risks throughout the industry. Some experts believe this may be an industry-wide issue rather than an isolated incident at Siemens Gamesa. 


Nicholas Green, from AllianceBernstein, notes that the sector is navigating uncharted territory due to the introduction of brand-new, rapidly evolving machinery. He suggests that the lack of operational data and time in use might be a significant factor contributing to these challenges. (Source: CNBC)


A Turning Point for the Industry

The issues facing the wind power sector are substantial, prompting discussions with governments and stakeholders. It highlights a turning point for the industry, emphasizing a need for more robust quality management and long-term stability over rapid expansion. (Source: Economic Times)


Cost Pressures and Supply Chain Disruptions

The wind industry has witnessed significant growth over the past two decades, reducing costs and increasing turbine size to compete with fossil fuels. However, the industry faced hurdles during the COVID-19 pandemic, which impacted global energy demand and supply chain disruptions. Moreover, Russia's invasion of Ukraine led to supply chain problems, significantly increasing the cost of wind turbines. 


WindEurope estimates that rising commodity prices have inflated wind turbine costs by up to 40% in the last two years. This has placed additional pressure on original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), particularly those who had not indexed their renewables auctions to inflation. Wind turbine orders typically take up to 18 months to commission, and shortages of materials further complicate the situation. (Source: CNBC)


The Need for Realistic Expectations

Experts warn that the wind industry must develop a more comprehensive understanding of turbine failure rates, given the potential impact on project profitability. For example, turbines built in 2023 might require replacements for over 40% of gearboxes, over 20% of main bearings, and more than 5% of blades after 20 years of operation.


Around 65% of operations and maintenance costs in the wind industry are unplanned. It's estimated that major corrective spending could reach $4 billion by 2029. These issues have long been simmering, but industry players are now openly addressing them, recognizing the need for digital and diagnostic tools to address reliability issues. (Source: CNBC)


As the wind power industry navigates this critical moment, it's clear that a focus on quality, stability, and sustainable practices will shape its future and its role in the broader energy sector.