Cost row may delay world’s biggest wind farm in UK

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Britain's Greater Gabbard offshore wind farm, which could be the world's largest when it opens, is at risk of delays as developers SSE and RWE npower and main builder Fluor argue over who pays the extra costs for faulty material.

The developers plan for the 1.3 billion pound ($2 billion) wind farm off the coast of Suffolk to start operating before the end of 2012, but SSE said on Friday the payment dispute with Fluor could put the timetable of the 500 megawatt project at risk.

"Although disputes of this kind can present potential risks to project timetables, all 140 turbines should be installed and energised as planned before the end of 2012," SSE said.

Fluor, the largest publicly listed U.S. engineering company, has claimed the two utilities must pay it around 300 million pounds to compensate for the time and costs it incurred when some of the welds of the steel tubes supplied to the project required extra testing and repairs.

The utilities have refuted this claim, and SSE said it retained an option to submit its own claim against Fluor if necessary.

SSE and RWE npower have asked for additional proof that the quality of monopiles — or steel tubes — and transition pieces used in the early stages of the development meets the required standards.

Fluor was not immediately available for comment on Friday.

The U.S. firm secured an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract for the wind farm and started construction on the project in 2008.

It said on its website that the project required 84,000 tonnes of steel tubes, which weigh 600 tonnes on average.

Greater Gabbard was initially planned to be completed at the end of 2010, but the takeover of Airtricity, one of the early stakeholders in the project, by SSE delayed the process as the Scottish utility considered whether to go ahead with the wind farm.

So far 115 turbines have been installed and 72 of them are producing electricity.