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« Quote of the day | Main | Glaciologists condemn Guardian "misinformation" »
Saturday
Sep172011

Case not Proven

Proven Energy, the domestic wind turbine manufacturer that had to advise buyers of one of its most popular machines to switch off because of a fault, has gone into receivership.

A Scottish company that makes small-scale wind turbines has gone into administration with the loss of 55 jobs.

Directors of Proven Energy called in the receivers after a fault was found in one of its turbines and the firm did not have the finance to keep trading.

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Reader Comments (36)

Surely a warning to any would-be buyer of small scale WTGs.

Don't do it!

Sep 17, 2011 at 10:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterDougS

Didn't our PM get one of these hairdryers put on to one of his mansions to help reduce his carbon footprint ?
Erk...... I hope the shaft doesn't fail sending the blades flying when he's in residence.
Or even worse when the Huhne is visiting.

Sep 17, 2011 at 11:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterBob

Today it's "Proven Energy" going bust. Tomorrow it's UK PLC's turn, flushed down the toilet by mad environmental policies.

Sep 17, 2011 at 11:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid C

I feel very sorry for the 55 families facing hardship, plus their creditors and suppliers.

But to the people who invested in Proven Energy, do not be so gullible, if you believe in the consensus, you are going to believe the companies name

Sep 17, 2011 at 12:11 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley

Proven have some 2,500 non-grid-connected machines supplying electricity to remote off-grid locations around Scotland in addition to 500 of the newer 12Kw machines which are designed to be grid connected. It is only the 12Kw machines that have this potential problem. The turbines are all in private hands, generating electricity for private individuals or small businesses.

Proven were been in business for 30 years and had a reputation for enterprise, honesty, value and service. Unfortunately they didn't have enough capital to deal with a recall of this nature, which is subject to a relatively straightforward though expensive engineering fix.

This company and their failure have nothing to do with energy politics and the undoubted greed of 'big wind' energy companies - and to attempt to make denier capital out of the failure of a successful Scottish SME is IMO rather pathetic.

(Last comment addressed to those posting in this comments, thread, not to the blog owner)

Sep 17, 2011 at 12:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterScotsRenewables

scot..

"This company and their failure have nothing to do with energy politics"

That's just not true .Private individuals have been encouraged to adopt wind turbines and solar panels because they have been hoodwinked by the global warming nonsense and made to feel guilty about their 'carbon footprint'.
High feed in tariffs , paid for by increasing electricity bills, have been used to entice people into the 'renewables revolution'. People aren't been told the truth about the chance of tariffs decreasing or the vulnerability of this ' revolutionary' technology. Private companies are enjoying free publicity for their products due to people like you who are pushing the man made global warming myth. Blocking and slandering anyone who tries to stop the nonsense.
By calling me a 'denier' you are continuing with the political attacks. Trying to associate me with the Nazi holocaust deniers.

Sep 17, 2011 at 1:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeorge

ScotsRenewables Sep 17, 2011 at 12:54 PM

I met Gordon Proven at a Wind Design and Innovation Conference many moons ago and while we did not actually do any business I have watched the product development with interest.

I will concur with your view that the company "had a reputation for enterprise, honesty, value and service."

I was taken with the success they were having with the non-grid connected installations that you mention. These units were supplying a very real need.

The issue I have with wind turbines is as you state "the undoubted greed of 'big wind' energy companies" and the energy politics that makes it possible. Along with experience of the engineering issues that may still to be resolved with the latest breed of large scale machines, the designs appear to be pushing both the materials and manufacturing tolerances. I have no doubt that the engineering will have developed over the last few years, time will tell but if maintenance problems do arise, the costs could be prohibitive, especially in deep water offshore installations.

And finally:-

"and to attempt to make denier capital out of the failure of a successful Scottish SME is IMO rather pathetic."

Agreed

Sep 17, 2011 at 1:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterGreen Sand

Small wind turbines on isolated farm properties in Australia way back when your grandma was a baby filled a very useful need -- today, I don't know.

Proven's "some 2,500 non-grid-connected machines supplying electricity to remote off-grid locations around Scotland" do, I imagine, fill a real need in a useful way, and it will be a shame if they cannot in some way continue to be produced.

High-minded saviors of Earth should eat some earth for the distortions their religion has created in our civilization.

Sep 17, 2011 at 2:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Carr

@george

Most of Proven's turbines are not grid-connected. The company was set up decades before feed-in tarrifs were invented.

But - any excuse to bang on about the 'global warming myth' eh? With no regard to the actual subject matter under discussion? That is why I term you a denier, not a sceptic - because you parrot the same neverending denier memes whatever the subject matter, while true sceptics stop and think before posting. There are some real sceptics with a scientific background and a capacity for original thought who post regularly on this blog, but sadly you are not one of them.

Sep 17, 2011 at 2:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterScotsRenewables

It seems rather judgemental to describe the propensity of a wind turbine to reduce its buyer to chopped meat as a "fault".

Sep 17, 2011 at 2:29 PM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

This is a very sad story. Most small companies that have been going for 30 Years have been doing something right. They have been paying taxes, creating jobs and generally contributing to society as well as being tax collectors for the government(VAT).
I don't know what the economics of their products and cannot opine on that aspect of the business but
it is a shame and I feel very sorry for the company and it's employees.

Sep 17, 2011 at 2:43 PM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

This company and their failure have nothing to do with energy politics

Are you sure? Were it not for the obsession of a succession of national and regional governments with "renewable" energy and the illusion that they are a viable alternative to moribund manufacturing sectors, Proven would in all likelihood have stuck to its niche market and still be in business.

Are you suggesting that owners of smaller devices aren't in receipt of any subsidy? My experience is different.


Unfortunately they didn't have enough capital to deal with a recall of this nature . . .

Exactly - the company was out of its depth. That it was aware of this is perhaps suggested by the speed with which it went into administration.

to attempt to make denier capital out of the failure of a successful Scottish SME is IMO rather pathetic.

Recourse to the equally pathetic "denier" label conceals that you are missing the point. Proven is NOT a successful SME; it is in administration and hovering on the brink of bancruptcy. Its only survival hope is a for-buttons takeover which, given the open-ended exposure caused by the failure of its flagship product, is unlikely unless a big player buys it as a political favour.

Though not in quite the same way, it too is a victim of the failed political-business model that brought down Vestas in Cambeltown and the Isle of Wight and tower manufacture in Arnish (the Cambrian fiasco). Both of these cost tax-payers £millions in futile subsidies. The latter was eventually bought up by SSE as (you've guessed it) a political favour.

In any case, it's the second small-scale wind turbine manufacturer from this part of the country to fail in recent years. The earlier company (whose name for the moment excapes me) did not, in fairness, have Proven's track record.

Government is trying to create a jobs boom out of scientific chicanery. One feels for Proven's employees just as one also feels for those who stand to lose their jobs as a result of artificially-hiked energy prices or the destruction of Scotland's proven (if that's the word) rural tourism sector. Only the terminally stupid still argue that the wind-power bubble has not put this at risk.

Sep 17, 2011 at 2:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveB

Scots - "the failure of a successful Scottish SME"

The hard reality is that they have failed - they are not successful. One of their products has been found wanting and it has put them out of business. From the article:

"As a result of the product issue and the inability to obtain necessary additional funding, the directors had no option but to cease trading."

and

"Although Proven has achieved substantial turnover growth in recent years, the company has made significant losses as it focused on product development, making it difficult for the business to cope financially with the cost of the product failure."

So they were already making significant losses - not generally the sign of a successful business. As for the source of substantial turnover growth, it would be interesting to know what drove this - IMO I think the growth rate in off grid applications is unlikely to have been the key driver and wonder how it compares to FIT driven sales? Do you have any relevant facts?

Sep 17, 2011 at 3:11 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

DaveB - I think you are talking about "Windsave":

http://www.bettergeneration.com/wind-turbine-reviews/windsave-ws1000-wind-turbine.html

http://www.reuk.co.uk/Directory/wind-turbines-Scotland.htm

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/feb/06/windpower

Sep 17, 2011 at 3:15 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

I think you are talking about "Windsave":

You're right. Thanks.

To be fair, Proven was a long-standing business with viable products that lost its way.

Windsave OTOH was the object of thoroughly-deserved derision from the off. Not even B&Q could conceal that and soon dropped the product though not with the razzamatazz with which it picked it up. Do you remember all those daft stories about banks of Windsave devices on top of blocks of council flats?

Private householders who installed one had to fit a modem link to Windsave's office so it could monitor the output. It sold the ROCs and passed on a small commission as recompense for that droning noise coming through the ceiling. Payback was promised by half-past four after the war.

Sep 17, 2011 at 3:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveB

DaveB - I concur, the Windsave was dire. Also I agree re: Proven - I think they did have a good product but I think the lure of FIT pulled them into an area which appears to have been their downfall.

Relevant advert here:

http://www.green-generation.co.uk/html/proven_p35-2.html

Sep 17, 2011 at 3:37 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

Re: urban wind turbines - IMO the well conducted "Warwick Wind Trials" made it pretty hard to continue with that silliness:

http://www.warwickwindtrials.org.uk/

Sep 17, 2011 at 3:41 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

Dave Cameron's dad in law is trousering £1,000 a day for renting out his land to 6 white elephant bird mincers. I'm sure he wouldn't mind putting a few bob into the hat to help out.

Sep 17, 2011 at 6:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterBill
Sep 17, 2011 at 6:05 PM | Unregistered Commenter3x2

"This company and their failure have nothing to do with energy politics and the undoubted greed of 'big wind' energy companies - and to attempt to make denier capital out of the failure of a successful Scottish SME is IMO rather pathetic."

Pull the other one! This is a clear case of over-trading. Are you trying to say that the company was not driven by the the political agenda to go into expansion mode into an adjacent market during a recession?

Sep 17, 2011 at 6:43 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Cameron's F-I-L has 8 windmills on his land near Scunthorpe. I frequently drive past and it's very rare to see all 8 turning. The usual view is 6 turning and 2 standing still.

Any ideas why they have so much downtime?

Sep 17, 2011 at 9:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

A large amount of hype from watermelon "technology" also brings in competitors who will tend to increase competition both directly and indirectly and thus low a previously successful SMEs margins.

They tend to go "shit or bust" for expansion at this point with a load of loans, further harming profitablilty...

Sep 17, 2011 at 10:07 PM | Unregistered Commenterac1

Jack Hughes Sep 17, 2011 at 9:25 PM

"Any ideas why they have so much downtime?"

Apart from the inherent engineering issues of pushing the materials and manufacturing tolerances in order to produce ever larger machines, with the wonderfully friendly subsides, they probably earn more money when they are switched off!

Welcome to the improvement in your wellbeing that the 2008 Climate Change Act brings you!

Sep 17, 2011 at 10:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterGreen Sand

"Any ideas why they have so much downtime?"

Jack - if you can find the data, check your local windspeeds. Just because they are turning does not mean they are generating useful power. You might find a link to the airport weather station:

http://www.flightstats.com/go/Airport/weather.do?airportCode=HUY

Sep 17, 2011 at 10:34 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

I disagree this is a case of "Case not Proven". Proven Energy have proven their energy does not work (despite heavy govt subsidies?)

Sep 18, 2011 at 1:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard

For a little history from Australia past:

The Dunlite Wind Power Plant

"...Remember, the plant generates electricity free from the wind, therefore be certain that the Plant clears all obstacles (house roof, trees, etc.) by at least 15-20 feet. Make sure that the Plant is between the house and the direction of the prevailing winds...

Sep 18, 2011 at 5:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Carr

And a philosophical thought stemming from "The Dunlite Wind Power Plant" noted above.
     If you chose to go for real power and bought the 4-blade version, you had plenty of warning about care of assembly.
     If one of the blades flew rogue and knocked your head off, I doubt the family would have sued the maker. They would have accepted there was a warning, and concluded the assembling was wrongly carried out -- because people did once take personal responsibility.
     How terribly old-fashioned...

THIS PROPELLER HAS BEEN CAREFULlY BALANCED AND ALIGNED;GREATEST OF CARE MUST BE TAKEN IN HANDLING.
     This procedure is very important, as it is similar to that used in the manufacture of the blades. Proceed to fix the other blades in a similar fashion, and make sure that all screws are dead tight.
     Failure to follow above directions will throw propeller .out of balance.

Sep 18, 2011 at 6:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Carr

Well someone is being paid to produce nothing.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/energy/windpower/8770937/Wind-farm-paid-1.2-million-to-produce-no-electricity.html

Sep 18, 2011 at 8:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterBreathe of Fresh Air

"Well someone is being paid to produce nothing."

If you include the financial sector, lots of people are! Not that far OT in as much as SMEs are allowed to fail but the big guys on the other hand.....

Sep 18, 2011 at 9:05 AM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

Simple math question.
When only a small percentage of families get feed tarrif, they rip benefit because everyone else is paying the difference, as if being punished.
What would happen when everyone joins the scheme. Who is going to pay? Like the unsustainable speculation of stock market, it will eventually crash. Everyone will have to pay the higher cost. Those in the business will of course grow fat until they too feel the pinch.
Those who cannot aford to pay are the weak, old and suffering souls in developing countries.

Sep 18, 2011 at 9:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterEdwin

What would happen when everyone joins the scheme. Who is going to pay?

They can't all join. But then again, it was never intended that they should.

Bit like any good Ponzi scheme really - too many beneficiaries and the scheme quickly falls apart.

Sep 18, 2011 at 4:45 PM | Unregistered Commenter3x2

Sad news indeed. However, the small off grid turbine market explored by Proven should be profitable and like a phoenix should be reborn. As I said in my initial post, scaling from Proven 7 and 11 to Proven 35-2 (8.5m diameter) may have been a factor in the problem either through underdesign or supplier quality issue. From a technical viewpoint, it would be interesting to get to the bottom line.

Sep 18, 2011 at 5:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterM.Villeger

Edwin...

"What would happen when everyone joins the scheme. Who is going to pay?"

This is the question I asked a solar panel salesman at a recent show I went to.
He was offering 12% return tax free on my 'investment' with an index linked FIT for 25 yrs and 100% free electricity from day 1.
I told him it sounded like a ponzi scheme because eventually the outgoings would swamp the incoming 'investments'. Especially if , like Spain, they decided to slash the FIT due to the country being bust. Or a new government scraps the whole scam entirely ( unlikely - they're all into the global warming scam)

Sep 18, 2011 at 6:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterChris

@ScottishRenewables

...to attempt to make denier capital out of the failure...

I promise not to attempt to make capital out of the failure of Proven Energy if you promise to stop using pejorative language.

Sep 18, 2011 at 6:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

Why should I pay someone to erect wind farms and then pay subsidies when there is not enough wind and then 5 times more in order to put the farms off grid when there is too much wind.
Nice scheme.
Income tax, council tax and 20% VAT is quite enough already.

Sep 19, 2011 at 4:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterEdwin

BTW, the Proven website can now be browsed without inconvenience.

Sep 22, 2011 at 4:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterM.Villeger

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