News and analysis about energy in California with an eye toward renewables.

Energy Company Having a Tough Year in Renewable Power Sector

Felix Ferlemann, outgoing head of Siemens Energy's wind unit | Photo: Siemens

It's been a bad year for Siemens' renewable energy ventures. With hundreds of the company's wind turbines still out of service after a May accident in Imperial County, Calif., Siemens' wind power head Felix Ferlemann has left -- in the words of a Siemens press statement -- "by mutual agreement to pursue new career challenges."

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Replacing Ferlemann, who has run Siemens' wind power division just since October 2011, is Siemens' former industrial power business unit head Markus Tacke.

This new career opportunity for the company's former wind chief comes less than two weeks after the company announced it would be closing its solar unit after failing to find a buyer for the division, which has bled about a billion dollars in losses since 2011. The division focused (so to speak) on parabolic trough solar thermal technology, which has lost its figurative luster over the last few years in an era of plungng prices for photovoltaic panels.

Meanwhile, as many as 707 of the company's turbines worldwide remain "curtailed" -- slowed or shut down -- after a May accident in which a ten-ton, 174-foot blade came loose from a turbine at Imperial County's Ocotilllo Express Wind Project, and landed more than 100 yards away from the turbine across a popular vehicle route. That incident came just a month after a similar accident in Iowa. After the Ocotillo mishap, Siemens curtailed all its turbines worldwide using that blade, the B-53.

Siemens' turbines were installed on the Ocotillo site by project operator Pattern Energy. According to Pattern, the process of restarting curtailed turbines at Ocotillo may start as early as Wednesday, with turbines being brought online one at a time.

"Felix Ferlemann provided essential stimuli, and we thank him for his commitment," said Michael Süß, CEO of Siemens' Energy Sector, in a corporate statement as oblique as any ReWire has seen, though perhaps it lost something in translation.


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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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