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Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Fires at Kahuku Windfarm Released 'Reactive' Particles, $2M Damage
By Selected News Articles @ 3:51 PM :: 10185 Views :: Maui County, Education K-12, Energy, Environment

Wind Farm Fire Dispute Reaches Courts

(CN) - Defective parts caused a devastating fire in a 2-month-old Hawaii wind farm that cost millions to repair, the energy company that ran the farm says in court.

Austin, Texas-based Xtreme Power Solutions says it won 2011 contract from First Wind O&M to build a wind farm in Kahuku on the North Shore of Oahu. Xtreme designs energy storage and power-management systems for utilities and commercial-end users.

To complete the job, Xtreme allegedly bought 10 specially designed inverters from Dynapower Corp. and installed them in 10 Dynamic Power Modules (DPMs), housed in a building that First Wind built.

Xtreme claims it later learned that the Dynapower inverters contained defective capacitors manufactured by Electronic Concepts Inc.

"The DPMs are critical components of First Wind's energy storage system, absorbing excess power or providing supplemental power, depending on the strength of wind gusts supplying the farm," according to the complaint in Travis County District Court.

"On March 1, 2011, the Kahuku wind farm went online," Xtreme added. "On April 22, 2011, one of the inverters caught fire, destroying one of the DPMs and damaging nearby equipment and fixtures. Additionally, as a result of the fire, soot containing metallic fragments spread throughout the building. Because the metallic fragments were reactive with the DPMs' component batteries, Xtreme was forced to retain a company to completely clean out the soot from the building."

In May 2011, a second inverter caught fire, and an investigation of both fires determined that "the capacitors supplied by ECI contained manufacturing defects that made them susceptible to combustion under ordinary use at the wind farm," the complaint states, abbreviating Electronic Concepts Inc.

Xtreme says it the repairs cost it "millions of dollars," and that it had to consult with Dynapower to modify the remaining inverters.

The Kahuku wind farm has been operating for one year. First Wind's website says the farm's 12 turbines produce enough power for up to 7,700 homes on Oahu. The farm uses battery storage systems that are easily upgradable and can handle intermittency, instead of interconnected grid technology used on the mainland. First Wind has projects in seven U.S. states, while Xtreme has integrated solar and wind technology with existing utilities on four of Hawaii's islands.

Xtreme Power Solutions seeks damages from Synapower and for breach of implied and express warranty, negligence and breach of contract.

It is represented by W. Stephen Benesh of Bracewell & Giuliani in Austin.

LINK: Full Text of Court Filing

 

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