** This post was updated in March 2014 to include more information about the cause and origin.
Wind farms produce “green” energy by using nature’s natural resources to produce what would otherwise be caused by a high form of pollution in a coal fired power source. Peak Claims inland marine cargo surveyor, Phillip Crimaldi, has a range of experience in dealing with green energy insurance claims and inland marine damage surveys. In particular, Mr. Crimaldi reviews this loss for wind mill nacelle damage.
Way up in north central Colorado near the Town of Grover, close to where the southern Wyoming and Nebraska state lines meet and near the Pawnee National Grassland, there is a growing wind farm known as The Northern Colorado Wind Facility. This particular wind farm has consistent winds of 20+mph throughout the day with frequent gusts up to around 40+mph, which made this an easy choice for X-Cel Energy’s partnership with NextEra for a 152-Megawatt wind farm costing nearly $300 million and producing enough electricity to light up 38,000 homes. When I attended this survey there were warning signs about high winds at the entry and it was so windy that my truck door was nearly torn off and at least 3 documents went flying so far, so fast, that it was impossible to get them. I only carry documents in digital form now.
Mitsubishi Power Systems manufactured the nacelles for most of this wind farm and this unit was no exception, originating at the Port of Tokyo (to the Port of San Diego) and all but two miles from the drop site here in Colorado.
On this file, Peak Claims appeared as independent inland marine (cargo) surveyors for the loss at hand. The primary reason for our involvement was to assess the extent of the damages to the freight, determine the cause and origin of those damages, and address any potential right to subrogation under the terms of this inland marine floater policy. Additionally, we looked to review this loss under the relevant laws of the Interstate Commerce Act, since the damage occurred within the boundaries of the United States. The wind mill nacelle (shown in photographs below) sustained heavy damages as a result of negligent handling by the trucking company (driver), but this was an inland marine policy and therefore we did not involve ourselves with the trucking agency.
The driver of this cargo stated that another truck was approaching from the opposite direction and his story matched those of nearby local workers, witnesses and the opposing truck driver. In this area of the country, narrow dirt roads are prevalent and are commonly one and a half lanes, with a width of approximately 15 feet. The opposing truck was a 53′ van and, as the smaller load, he should have yielded but failed to do so. As a result, this inland marine cargo hauler pulled over on the berm, but allowed his trailer to drift into the culvert. The driver attempted to pull out of the culvert which is when the weight of the cargo load became excess for the 5th wheel hitch at such an angle, shown here:
Since the load originated at the Port of San Diego we can trust that it was well secured because of the several hundred miles elapsed between the destination and origin cities. We documented and verified the lashings were un-changed from their original position, and note no evidence of failure. As noted, the cargo itself did not break free from the trailer but rather the trailer hitch broke away from the truck, resulting in damages to this inland cargo risk. The unit was moved to the drop site on the following day, as it posed a risk to the traffic on the roadway.
Wind mill nacelle damage can often be misleading. These large pieces of equipment often sustain damage that is not visible to inexperienced surveyors, and requires a sharp eye (and ear) to observe the bulk of the claim. For example, in this case, it merely appears the chassis shell is damaged, but many internal damages were described in our report. We consulted with engineers from the installing mechanical contractor and the manufacturer’s engineer. The installing mechanical contractor’s engineer couldn’t make any determination about the unit specifically, except that it was (obviously) not fit for installation and the Mitsubishi’s engineer was overseas for the initial review, which was done via review of the photos and telephone. At this point, there was obviously a minimal question as to the likelihood of coverage, although that is not for us to decide and a job for the Underwriters. The damages were clearly so excessive that salvage was our only interest, but ultimately one for Mitsubishi to decide. The decisions were left with our third party agent as to the disposition of salvage because a substantial amount of time passed before a qualified engineer could make a physical survey, and because parts would have to be removed completely and disassembled to make that determination.
Details about the opposing truck drivers insurance carrier, USDOT records and other pertinent information were obtained and forwarded in our report, so that a subrogation investigation might address further recovery potential. No comparative negligence could be derived from the evidence gathered on the scene. Overall our assistance in the matter was helpful because we identified all of the black and white evidence to that a determination for coverage could be made.