MAJOR FAILURES: Half of Coopers Gap Windfarm to be repaired
IT'S billed as one of Australia's biggest renewable projects, but the South Burnett Times can reveal just six months since the installation of the final turbine, operators are already working to replace critical components in nearly half of the major windfarm's generators.
Coopers Gap Windfarm, a nearly $1 billion investment in future energy security, was completed just months ago, but already major issues have appeared.
In April, the final blade was installed on the last of the 123 wind turbines at the Darling Downs site, 50km from Kingaroy, which is estimated to have cost $850 million to develop.
But an anonymous source has revealed to NewsCorp that the commissioning process in recent months uncovered multimillion-dollar mechanical issues that have forced operator AGL and construction partners GE CATCON to begin major overhaul works - including replacing an entire turbine.
An AGL spokeswoman confirmed to the South Burnett Times major faults were found by General Electric during testing.
"During the commissioning process, rigorous tests were carried out to ensure the long-term operational capability and reliability of each component," the spokeswoman said.
"However, recent testing by GE has identified that one of their wind turbines will need to be replaced.
"An exclusion zone has been erected around the turbine to ensure safety."
The Times was told by the well-placed source that one of the turbine's blades - the largest ever transported in Australia, measuring 67m long and weighing 22 tonnes - may be at risk of becoming separated from the turbine.
The source also said "about 50" generators needed to be replaced and there were major component issues just months after the wind farm finished construction.
While AGL confirmed a turbine needed to be replaced, both it and GE refused to confirm or deny the claim a turbine blade was at risk of separating.
GE did confirm 53 generators will need to be replaced, due to a single component which the multinational corporation believed could impact the generators' long-term reliability.
The generators are situated at the base of the site's turbines - one per turbine - with the remaining 70 generators not requiring the same work to be completed.
"To ensure reliability over the longer term, we are also proactively replacing a component in some of the turbines," a GE spokesman said.
"We have already commenced planning for a repair program conducted in phases to minimise disruption."
When questioned as to what had occurred that required an entire turbine to be replaced rather than simply repaired, GE did not directly address the question - with the spokesman issuing a statement that mirrored AGL's own response.
"During GE's routine inspection and testing, it was identified that one of the turbines will need to be replaced," he said.
"This turbine has been taken out of service while the Coopers Gap project continues to remain operational."
The South Burnett Times understands engineers are working to determine what caused the serious issue discovered during testing - however the nature of this issue remains unclear.
The Times has been told the 400m exclusion zone around the turbine is standard practice and there is no "imminent risk" of an accident at the site.
As the public cannot access the wind farm site where the turbine is located, there is no risk to the public.
Neither AGL nor GE responded to questions regarding the time frame or cost of these major repairs.