While few would contend that turbines are a major threat to public safety (most deaths and injuries are suffered by those transporting, erecting and maintaining turbines), the wind industry is marked by both a reluctance to admit to accidents and a tendency to cover up the failings of the technology.1
In 2011 RenewableUK admitted that there had been over 1,500 reported accidents/‘incidents’ in the UK in the previous five years, some of which resulted in deaths and serious injuries.
There is no requirement for accidents which do not cause death or injury to be reported. A Minister recently confirmed that, “Neither DECC, nor the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), collect specific data for wind turbine accidents.” 2 Most accidents are not noticed unless damage is spotted by the public and the press report it. Examples of industry cover-ups abound.
The wind industry always tries to play down the frequency of turbine accidents: for example, in Cornwall in 2006, “Part of a wind turbine blade weighing more than half a ton snapped off and crashed into a field during high winds. Operators Cumbria Windfarms said the site has been running since April 1993 and nothing like this had happened there before.” It had, as several locals pointed out: in 1993, a month after the turbine park opened, they had had a similar accident.
Then we had a spokesperson for Scottish Power quoted as saying of a blade accident at Whitelee, “This is a highly unusual situation. I've not heard of this kind of incident happening in 30 years.” 3
This may fool some of the public, but, as is evident from this page, blade failures are fairly common and there were several instances just in the North East and Borders when only a handful of turbines were operating in the area.
The Danes are rather more honest. The Technical Approval Authority at the Risø National Laboratory revealed in 2008 that they had recorded the collapse of 15 turbines in the previous three years.4
A Dutch company whose core business is blade repair admits that, “Rotor blade lightning damage is a common problem.”. 5
1 Written answer, 23 April 2013, (HC Deb, 23 April 2013, c849W).
2 Caithness Windfarm Information Forum has some data on UK turbine accidents.
3 See article below.
4 The Engineer, 26 February 2008.
5 NGup Rotor Blades.
Turbine fires are nearly as common as blade accidents, which is no great surprise when you consider that turbines have a combination of large volumes of lubricants, highly stressed bearings and electrical generating sets - brought together at the top of a very high lightning conductor.
Modern turbines are too high for fire fighters to use ladder equipment. Unless firefighting helicopters are available, turbines are normally left to burn out, burning off large quantities of oil, plastics and other noxious materials in the process.
The propensity of very large industrial wind turbines to catch fire, shed blades or bits thereof, throw ice and, occasionally, to suffer catastrophic, high speed blade failures followed by a tower collapse leads sensible people to question their construction close to houses or transport routes.
The world wide problem of turbine noise nuisance also underlines the need for sensible separation distances.
Other countries have acted on that conclusion. In Scotland there is planning guidance (SPP 6, Renewables) which suggests a 2 kilometre separation distance. Similar separation distances have been put in place in other countries, in Europe, parts of Australia, Canada and the US.
Nothing so sensible exists in England and Wales. If anything, things have got worse. In the 1990’s the DTI was suggesting a 450m separation distance for turbines that then were a maximum of 60m high. Now, with 125m turbines the norm, and turbines of up to 200m being built in France and Germany, there is no suggested cordon sanitaire and we are entirely at the mercy of developers and the haphazard decisions of local planning authorities, many of which have little experience or understanding of wind turbines.
The Highways Agency recognises the risks but fails entirely to recommend a separation distance which would protect road or rail users from a turbine accident:
Consideration of the risks associated with structural failure and ‘icing’ identifies the clear need to incorporate a safety margin in the offset between the trunk road boundary and the siting of a wind turbine. Therefore, it is appropriate to achieve a set-back from the nearest highway boundary equal in distance to their height + 10% for micro and small turbines. Commercial turbines should be set back a distance equal to their height + 50 metres. (Network Services, Spatial Planning Advice Note: SP 12/09, ‘Planning applications for wind turbines sited near to trunk roads’, 13).
As is evident from accident reports on this page and academic studies of blade throw, large turbines can throw very large blades, or pieces thereof, weighing many tonnes, for hundreds of metres.
The industry routinely proposes building 100-140m turbines within 500m of housing although they are well aware of the noise problems with large turbines.
“As a standard precautionary measure, all Infinis staff vacate wind farms when wind speeds exceed 55 mph and therefore no one was present on site at the time of the incident,” (Press release from Infinis regarding the Ardrossen wind farm fire, 8 December 2011).
That must be a comfort to neighbouring members of the public.
“Fancy a fun-filled family day out at your local wind farm this Bank Holiday Weekend?
This August Bank Holiday (27/28 August), on the last weekend before schools go back, families across the UK will be able to visit a working wind farm and touch a turbine as part of the first ever, simultaneous nationwide opening of wind farms – and all for FREE.” (BWEA Press release).
Turbine operating manuals and site noticeboards tell a different story:
The BWEA’s irresponsibility in encouraging thousands of children to touch electricity generators, and Powergen’s [now E.ON UK] equally notorious ‘Hug a turbine’ TV advertising campaign, eventually caused such an outcry that the wind industry’s friends at the DTI were forced to issue a warning:
“We would not normally advise any member of the public to make contact with installations being used for the supply of electricity,” said a DTI spokesman. “Though the risks to the public from wind turbines are minimal they are large industrial structures and it is sensible to take precautions.”
(‘Warning: don't hug a wind turbine’, The Times, 28 May, 2006).
Apparently PR trumps common sense. Wind power station operators continue to ignore safety advice from their own industry and the government:
“There was a range of children’s craft activities which included making wind chimes, wind socks and there was the opportunity to leave your hand print on one of the turbines” [our emphasis].
(‘Duns nursery benefits from Black Hill wind farm cash’, Berwickshire News, 9 June 2010. Article refers to wind industry open day event).
Can you imagine the outcry there would be in parliament and the press if children were invited to leave handprints on electrical transformers?
Spiegel Online, August 20, 2007.
‘Wind turbines continue to multiply the world over. But as they grow bigger and bigger, the number of dangerous accidents is climbing. How safe is wind energy?
‘After the industry's recent boom years, wind power providers and experts are now concerned. The facilities may not be as reliable and durable as producers claim. Indeed, with thousands of mishaps, breakdowns and accidents having been reported in recent years, the difficulties seem to be mounting. Gearboxes hiding inside the casings perched on top of the towering masts have short shelf lives, often crapping out before even five years is up. In some cases, fractures form along the rotors, or even in the foundation, after only limited operation. Short circuits or overheated propellers have been known to cause fires. All this despite manufacturers' promises that the turbines would last at least 20 years.
‘Gearboxes have already had to be replaced “in large numbers,” the German Insurance Association is now complaining. “ In addition to generators and gearboxes, rotor blades also often display defects,” a report on the technical shortcomings of wind turbines claims. The insurance companies are complaining of problems ranging from those caused by improper storage to dangerous cracks and fractures.
‘Wind power expert Martin Stöckl knows the problems all too well. The Bavarian travels some 80,000 kilometers (49,710 miles) across Germany every year, but he is only rarely able to help the wind farmers. It is not just the rotors that, due to enormous worldwide demand, take forever to deliver, but simple replacement parts are likewise nowhere to be found. “You often have to wait 18 months for a new rotor mount, which means the turbine stands still for that long,” says Stöckl.
‘“Sales Top, Service Flop” is the headline on a recent cover story which appeared in the industry journal Erneuerbare Energien. The story reports the disastrous results of a questionnaire passed out to members of the German WindEnergy Association asking them to rank manufacturers. Only Enercon, based in Germany, managed a ranking of “good.” The company produces wind turbines without gearboxes, eliminating one of the weakest links in the chain.
‘Even among insurers, who raced into the new market in the 1990s, wind power is now considered a risky sector. Industry giant Allianz was faced with around a thousand damage claims in 2006 alone. Jan Pohl, who works for Allianz in Munich, has calculated that on average “an operator has to expect damage to his facility every four years, not including malfunctions and uninsured breakdowns.”
Many insurance companies have learned their lessons and are now writing maintenance requirements -- requiring wind farmers to replace vulnerable components such as gearboxes every five years -- directly into their contracts. But a gearbox replacement can cost up to 10 percent of the original construction price tag, enough to cut deep into anticipated profits. Indeed, many investors may be in for a nasty surprise. “Between 3,000 and 4,000 older facilities are currently due for new insurance policies,” says Holger Martsfeld, head of technical insurance at Germany's leading wind turbine insurer Gothaer. “We know that many of these facilities have flaws.”
‘And the technical hitches are not without their dangers. For example:
In December of last year, fragments of a broken rotor blade landed on a road shortly before rush hour traffic near the city of Trier.
Two wind turbines caught fire near Osnabrück and in the Havelland region in January. The firefighters could only watch: Their ladders were not tall enough to reach the burning casings.
The same month, a 70-meter (230-foot) tall wind turbine folded in half in Schleswig-Holstein -- right next to a highway.
The rotor blades of a wind turbine in Brandenburg ripped off at a height of 100 meters (328 feet). Fragments of the rotors stuck into a grain field near a road.
‘At the Allianz Technology Center (AZT) in Munich, the bits and pieces from wind turbine meltdowns are closely examined. “The force that comes to bear on the rotors is much greater than originally expected,” says AZT evaluator Erwin Bauer. Wind speed is simply not consistent enough, he points out. “There are gusts and direction changes all the time,” he says.
‘But instead of working to create more efficient technology, many manufacturers have simply elected to build even larger rotor blades, Bauer adds. “Large machines may have great capacity, but the strains they are subject to are even harder to control,” he says.
‘Even the technically basic concrete foundations are suffering from those strains. Vibrations and load changes cause fractures, water seeps into the cracks, and the rebar begins to rust. Repairs are difficult. “You can't look inside concrete,” says Marc Gutermann, a professor for experimental statics in Bremen. “It's no use just closing the cracks from above.”
‘The engineering expert suspects construction errors are to blame. “The facilities keep getting bigger,” he says, “but the diameter of the masts has to remain the same because otherwise they would be too big to transport on the roadways.”
‘Still the wind power business is focusing on replacing smaller facilities with ever larger ones. With all the best sites already taken, boosting size is one of the few ways left to boost output. On land at least. So far, there are no offshore wind parks in German waters, a situation that Minister Gabriel hopes to change. He wants offshore wind farms to produce a total of 25,000 megawatts by 2030.
‘Perhaps by then, the lessons learned on land will ward off disaster at sea. Many constructors of such offshore facilities in other countries have run into difficulties. Danish company and world market leader Vestas, for example, had to remove the turbines from an entire wind park along Denmark's western coast in 2004 because the turbines were not sufficiently resilient to withstand the local sea and weather conditions. Similar problems were encountered off the British coast in 2005.
‘German wind turbine giant Enercon, for its part, considers the risks associated with offshore wind power generation too great, Enercon spokesman Andreas Düser says. While the growth potential is tempting, he says, the company does not want to lose its good standing on the high seas.’
Imperial College, 17 July, 2014
‘Fire is the second leading cause of accidents in wind turbines, after blade failure, according to research out today.
‘Wind farming is one of the leading industries in the renewable energy sector. However, the industry faces a number of challenges, such as opposition by wind farm lobbyists. Today’s research suggests that incidents of wind turbines catching fire are a big problem that is not currently being fully reported.
‘Researchers from Imperial College London, the University of Edinburgh and SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden carried out a global assessment of the world’s wind farms, which in total contain an estimated 200,000 turbines. The team found that ten times more fires are happening than are being reported.
Western Morning News, 7 September, 2014.
‘Safety concerns have been raised about the wind energy industry after reports showed two Westcountry turbines collapsed because of faults.
‘The giant masts crashed down on farmland amid initial rumours of sabotage and claims they had fallen victim to severe weather.
‘Documents obtained by the WMN on Sunday have revealed that the towers actually toppled over due to defects and mistakes in the construction process.
‘A 115ft (34 metre) mast at East Ash Farm, Bradworthy, in Devon, tumbled in January 2013, prompting claims of foul play from the local parish council.
‘Around the same time, a 60ft (18-metre) tower sited at Winsdon Farm, North Petherwin – the family farm of Liberal Democrat Cornwall Councillor Adam Paynter - also came loose from its moorings and fell.
‘Subsequent investigations by both manufacturers identified further defects and prompted warnings to other sites, including in Somerset, Devon and Cornwall.
‘Glasgow-based Gaia Wind wrote to owners and overhauled its entire first generation fleet.
‘Canadian firm Endurance Wind Power said it was also concerned about machines on dozens of locations.
It has long been known that wind turbine gearbox, and associated bearing, problems have been, and continue, to be a major problem, with gearboxes often failing only a few years into the expected operating life of the turbine.
This is especially the case in the offshore industry where there have been large-scale gearbox and bearing problems in even relatively recent installations.
This long running problem is so serious that since 2007, the US Government has been coordinating research into it through the The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL),a national laboratory of the US Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy.
NREL, ‘Gearbox Reliability Collaborative Project Report’, 2011 (PDF download).
NL Times.nl, 11 November, 2013.
‘The Coast Guard fears more accidents if the number of wind farms along the coast is increased. The North Sea is already one of the busiest seas in the world. If the plans for building even more wind turbines are realized, the chances of accidents will increase, according to Ed Veen, director of the Dutch Coast Guard.
‘Ships are already cramped on the increasingly crowded North Sea. By a growing number of wind turbines, they have to do with even less space. Each obstacle increases the risk of conflict. Veen points to the 100 to 150 ships that become rudderless annually in the North Sea to illustrate the dangers. If only one of those drifts into a wind farm it would cause an incident like the one with the cruise ship Costa Concordia, which cost the Italian state a billion Euros, according to the Coast Guard Director.
The wind industry loudly disputes that turbines frighten horses. This view has been very publically disproved by incidents involving horses being scared by wind turbines, most recently at the Pembrokeshire County Show:
County Show riders express turbine concerns
Western Telegraph, 25 August, 2012.
SEVERAL incidents involving horses being scared by wind turbines on display in the Pembrokeshire County Show ground have led organisers to re-think their tradestand layout for next year.
Concerns were voiced by owners and riders after their horses reacted to the spinning of a small turbine on a stand near the show’s collecting ring.
Among them was Dave Scourfield, whose own equestrian establishment is set to be in the shadow of Pembrokeshire’s largest turbine on land near Ludchurch.
His wife, Isobel, was riding through the walkway on her way to the ring when her horse was ‘spooked’ by the turbine. “She was thrown off, and he went galloping off into the lorry park, where he fell and cut his leg,” said Mr Scourfield. “This really proves the point that turbines and horses just don’t mix. This accident could have been avoided if the show organisers had used a bit of common sense and not put the turbine so very close to the horse area.”
Sarah Whitfield of Penskyber Livery Yard, Letterston, was working a child’s pony in the collecting ring when it span around, frightened by the turbine’s movement.
“I managed to stay on, but if a little child had been riding the pony, there could have been a nasty accident,” she said.
One of her four-year-old hunters also reared up and bucked when he caught sight of the turbine, she added.
‘Wind power may be one of the cleaner, greener energy sources available, but turbine and blade failures point to dangers that were not anticipated, says Michael Connellan
The Guardian, 4 September 2008
‘David Campbell and his family were asleep in their farmhouse in Northern Ireland when the 16-foot blade from the wind turbine crashed through the roof of his home one windy night in January last year. “It was like a bomb hitting the roof,” he told the Belfast Telegraph. “It shattered the tiles and the blade disintegrated itself.”
‘Campbell was not the only person to see the direct effects of a turbine failure. Just over a year later, in February, a 200ft Vestas wind turbine near the Danish city of Århus disintegrated spectacularly in high winds when a blade came loose and smashed into the central tower, causing the whole structure to collapse. The incident was captured on video camera and footage has been viewed thousands of times on YouTube.
‘Just two days later a turbine close to the town of Sidinge, in Denmark, sent a blade flying more than 300ft before it hit the ground. Keld Boye, a farmer whose land is near the structure, told Danish television: “I drive my tractor and my wife rides horses out there. Just think if we'd been out there when it happened.”
‘After Denmark’s climate minister demanded an investigation, authorities found the blade loss was caused by a lack of maintenance: regular checks on bolts in the turbine had been neglected. The Danish government announced mandatory service checks for every one of the 5,000 wind turbines in the country.
‘Turbines in Britain - there are 2,000, almost all of which are onshore - aren’t immune from failure. A 200ft turbine at a wind farm in Kintyre collapsed last November in a 50mph wind. Following that, 26 wind turbines across Scotland were shut down as a precautionary measure while the broken structure was examined. Then the following month in Cumbria, a 100ft steel turbine crashed to the ground.
‘Six months later, in June, as concerns over the incidents last year were receding, a blade cracked away from a 190ft turbine on a Sheffield University research park. Police evacuated the area while engineers allowed the 30ft blade to fall to the ground. The turbine was made by WES, a Dutch company. Earlier that month, the British government had published its renewable energy strategy - with plans to build around 4,000 new onshore wind turbines.
Renewable Energy World,6 Augyst, 2013.
‘LONDON -- Claims for blade damage and gearbox failure top the table for U.S. insurance payouts, according to a new analysis from GCube.
‘Using data based on reported claims in the U.S. for 2012, the analysis shows that blade damage and gearbox failure account for the greatest number of losses — accounting for 41.4 percent and 35.1 percent of the total claims reported, respectively.
‘Meanwhile, damage to generators (10.2 percent) and transformers (5.1 percent) ranked third and fourth in the report, with damaged to foundations coming in fifth in terms of claims volumes.
‘Although the majority of wind turbine blade damage can be attributed to lightning strikes, delamination and improper handling during the construction and installation phase are also frequent and need to be addressed.
Windtech International, Monday, 04 August 2008.
‘Frontier Pro Services of Banning, California conducted an informal survey of approximately 75 wind farm operators in the United States.’
‘Designed to assess the specific operation and maintenance service needs of wind energy operators, the survey reveals potentially serious threats to wind farms owing largely to the industry-wide shortage of qualified turbine technicians. Many wind farm operations and maintenance teams are so resource constrained that they are barely able to keep up with the unscheduled maintenance repairs their wind turbines require to generate electricity. Even regular, scheduled preventative-maintenance like oil changes and gearbox lubrication (services that are often still under warranty) are falling behind as manufacturers face similar resource struggles related to the shortage of qualified technicians. Gearbox failures account for the largest amount of downtime, maintenance, and lose of power production. These costly failures can total 15-20% of the price of the turbine itself, making wind turbine and gearbox maintenance a high priority. If oil is not properly monitored and replaced as needed, bearing and gear wear will lead to more serious and costly damage to the drive train. When a US$ 1,500 bearing fails unnoticed, it can lead to production loss and revenue loss including an unscheduled replacement of a US$ 100,000 dollar gearbox and a unscheduled crane cost of up to US$ 70,000 to access the failed components.’
The wind industry claim that it is only scare-mongering NIMBY’s who say that ice throw from wind turbines can endanger the public.
‘Wind turbine's deadly ice shower
PeterboroughToday.co.uk, 2 December 2008
Residents were left fearing for their safety after shards of melting ice fell on homes and gardens from the blades of a giant wind turbine. For about four hours people in King's Dyke, Whittlesey, had to take cover as huge lumps – some two feet long – showered them from the 80 metre high tower on Saturday morning.
Resident Peter Randall, whose son's house lies a stone's throw away from the turbine, said: "Somebody is going to get killed. There was huge lumps of ice shooting off and landing everywhere.
“No one wants to leave the house because they are frightened and worried about the ice falling.”
“My son's partner is pregnant and she is now worried sick about her unborn baby.”
Freezing overnight temperatures had caused the ice to form and after frantic calls to Truro-based firm Cornwall Light and Power, which owns the turbine, the £2 million machine was eventually turned off.
(See BBC News video).
A second Hannevind turbine in the local area has suffered a serious accident.
The 31m Hannevind turbine at Tillmouth Farm, near Norham, Berwick-upon-Tweed, suffered a catastrophic blade failure in February 2014, with large pieces of blade falling to the ground. It was taken down and scrapped soon afterwards.
The turbine was built in 2011, on a site next to a public footpath.
In December 2011, the same model of Hannevind turbine was deliberately collapsed by its builder after suffering a runaway brake failure in high winds, only two weeks after it was commissioned (see below).
It was subsequently revealed by Maden Eco, the turbine builders, that Hannevind had been declared bankrupt in October 2011, shortly before the turbine was built.
A blade has failed on a 71m farm turbine at Low Horton, near Blyth.
Local people noticed on 18 April, 2013, that the twin-bladed, French Vergnet turbine had suffered serious blade damage.
The whole structure was subsequently lowered for repairs.
Following on from the major problems caused by an overturned turbine transporter travelling to the Green Rigg site, local people were surprised that the transport of only six turbines to the Wingates site should again cause problems. They experienced delays and diversions when first a mobile crane skidded off the road, followed at a later date by a transporter vehicle getting stuck trying to negotiate a bend and hill.
Questions have continued to be raised about safety, regulation and costs to the community of turbine transport since the A696 was closed for a week when a giant transporter carrying part of a wind turbine tower crashed off the road at Raylees, near Elsdon.
The transporter was part of a convoy carrying turbine parts from Blyth to Green Rigg, near Ridsdale, where Wind Prospect are building 18 Vestas V80 turbines for French-owned EDF Energy. The transport route had been designated as the A68, but was changed by the delegated decision of a Northumberland County Council planning officer after a transporter had grounded on the southern section of the A68.
The Chinese-made tower section is 45m long (147ft) and weighs 56 tonnes. It was eventually recovered on 31 May and returned, this time with a substantial police escort, to Blyth for inspection and repair.
Local people continue to query the suitability of this route and why the crashed transporter apparently did not have a proper police escort.
Meanwhile, businesses in Otterburn were left severely our of pocket, losing thousands of pounds from loss of trade.
‘Operation to move wind turbine from A696 at Otterburn’, BBC News Video, 30 May, 2012.
‘Otterburn traders to seek compensation from wind farm group’, The Journal, 31 May, 2012.
‘Otterburn A696 ditch wind turbine is finally moved’, The Journal, 1 June, 2012.
‘I won’t pay my rates till losses are recouped’, The Journal, 4 June, 2012.
A 30m turbine near Coldingham was deliberately collapsed by its constructors, Maden Eco, after going out of control on Wednesday, 7 December, 2011.
Lothian and Borders Police said the turbine “suffered brake system failure and had been freewheeling” in 50mph winds.
Nearby houses had been evacuated and the A1107 shut.
The turbine had only been operational for a short time. Simon Maden, MD of Maden Design and Build, said that they had only recently been alerted to the fact that Hannevind, the Swedish manufacturers of the turbine, had gone out of business.
According to a letter from Maden Design to an SBC officer regarding an application for a replacement turbine, the client, “has suffered a total loss as a result of the manufacturer ceasing trading” (letter to SBC Officer, 6 March 2012).
Northumberland Gazette, 12 January, 2012.
‘Wind turbines standing idle on the edge of Alnwick will not be repaired by the manufacturers, it has emerged, with the tax-payer likely having to foot the bill to get them working again.
‘Town councillor Sue Allcroft has been chasing the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) over the three generators at its flagship Lion House, which have rarely turned since mid-2010 following a worldwide recall of the that model – the P35 – by their Scottish-based manufacturer, Proven Energy.
‘Proven finally went bust last September, but was sold by receiver KPMG to Irish renewables firm Kingspan Wind.
‘However, Kingspan’s website states that all liabilities and warranties for P35 turbines remain with KPMG, as they did not form part of the buy-out deal.
in April 2005, less than a year after the turbines were commissioned, a 100m turbine at the Crystal Rig in the Lammermuir Hills experienced a catastrophic blade failure.
The 38.8m (127 ft) blade, weighing over 7 tons, broke up at high speed in a gale, throwing debris for a considerable distance.
‘A HUGE wind turbine [actually only 51m] went up in smoke in a massive blaze seen for miles across Wearside.
‘The 200ft structure at the Nissan factory, part of a £2.3million wind farm built in August, burst into flames just after 12.30pm yesterday.
‘The fire was so fierce all three 75-ft long fibreglass blades eventually dropped off and thick black smoke could be seen for miles around.
‘Almost 200 people dialled 999 to alert emergency crews as flames engulfed the turbine.
‘Police closed both the A1231 and the A19 for an hour-and-a-quarter amid worries that parts of the metal tower could fall on to the busy roads.’
(Read the full story: Northern Echo, 23 December, 2005)
The two Blyth offshore turbines, after an early blade failure and cable fault, were out of service from April 2006 until January 2009 due to damage to a power cable on the seabed.
(‘Armour plan to save wind farm’, The Journal, 5 July 2007).
A Freedom of Information request by Windbyte in 2009 regarding output figures revealed that the landmark Wansbeck Hospital wind turbine at Ashington, Northumberland, had not been working since 2007.
The small (33m) Vestas turbine in the hospital car park, which was commissioned in 1992, was shut down after a blade began to come apart. This is a fairly common problem, even with newer 125m-plus wind turbines.
A statement from Northumbria Health Care Trust said that: “We have commissioned an external report which will look into the feasability of repairing and re-commissioning the turbine or, if not practical, the alternative uses which the turbine may be put.”
The trust could not reveal how much the turbine cost, as it was included in the hospital’s original capital costs.
The turbine has averaged 14.3% of its headline capacity of 0.1MW since it was commissioned. The British Wind Energy Association has long claimed that, “Over the course of a year, it [‘a modern wind turbine’] will typically generate about 30% of the theoretical maximum output.”.
(‘Wansbeck General wind turbine produces no power for two years’, The Journal, 5 November 2009).
Northumbria Health Care Trust have announced that the turbine can’t be economically repaired and will be removed.
Two of the three 66.5m turbines at Kirkheaton, which were put up less than 10 years ago, have not operated since Autumn 2008 due to blade faults on two of the turbines.
The turbines were supposed to be removed if they did not operate for six months or longer, but EDF, the French operating company, has been granted a second 12 month variation on the planning conditions by Northumberland County Council.
(‘Faulty Northumberland wind turbines could be taken down’, The Journal, 23 June 2009).
Halesowen News, 23 October, 2014.
‘A FAMILY were left traumatised after a 4ft blade broke from a wind turbine in the grounds of a Rowley Regis school and spun out of control narrowly missing their house.
‘Mother-of-two Emma Brewin estimated the three propeller blades had been spinning at speeds of more than 160mph on top of the huge turbine during Tuesday’s strong winds before they broke off.
‘The Ross Heights’ resident said: “They were going like the clappers and the pole was shaking.”
‘Suddenly, there was a loud bang and she saw something “flying through the air” out of the corner of her eye.
‘She and partner Steve McGilligan, aged 49, were horrified to discover one of the heavy fibreglass blades had hurtled about 200 yards into their garden, sliced through a hedge and smashed into their next door neighbour’s bench before coming to rest in the garden.
Milton Keynes Citizen, 16 May, 2014.
‘Three costly wind turbines built in the grounds of a school are now to be dismantled – after allegedly generating just £3.67 worth of electricity in NINE years.
‘Milton Keynes Council paid £170,000 for the giant turbines at Oakgrove School at Middleton.
‘But shortly after the school opened in 2005, the structures were switched off for health and safety reasons due to a manufacturing defect.
‘A source told the Citizen: “It all seems to be an extraordinary waste of money. None of it is the fault of the school itself – they’ve just been stuck with these huge things that have proved useless.”
‘The turbines were provided by a German company which has since gone into liquidation, leaving the council unable to get compensation.
‘But this week there was finally a sunny outcome to the sad saga. The council has negotiated with another contractor to remove the turbines for free and replace them with solar panels.
STV, 14 May 2014.
A fatal accident inquiry is to be held into the death of a man who was killed when he fell 100ft down the shaft of a wind turbine.
‘Basilio Brazao, a 19-year-old Brazilian construction worker, was working inside the turbine at the Earlsburn wind farm near Fintry, Stirlingshire on May 22, 2007 when he fell.
‘The teenager, who lived in Dunbar, East Lothian, died instantly and his body was later removed by fire crews.
‘In 2012, Manchester-based manufacturers Nordex UK admitted a number of health and safety breaches on the site.
‘Wind turbines in Anglesey burst into flame in the gale force winds that hit North Wales.
‘The flaming turbines were described as “giant Catherine wheels” after catching fire between 6pm and 7pm yesterday [11 February, 2014] near Cemaes.
‘Emma Shortman, who lives nearby, said: “I was letting the dogs out and saw flickering blue and red sparks coming from the hub of the turbine.
‘“Then it lit up like a candle.”
‘Mrs Shortman said another turbine caught fire on the other side of her house 20 minutes later.
‘She said: “I’ve never seen it happen before. There were sparks coming off the turbines. I was worried they might set the other turbines on fire. After an hour, they seemed to burn themselves out, but were still flickering as if they might start again.
‘“The hubs of the turbines are all burnt today, but they're still spinning. If the wind picks up and the blades keep spinning, I'm worried they could come off.”
‘The fire service said it was called to three wind turbines on fire in the area, but did not take any action at the scene.
Shetland Times, 18 December, 2013.
‘A lightning strike blasted a hole the size of a fist in one of the blades of Burradale Windfarm turbine “Betsy”.
‘The turbine, a Vestas V52, was damaged on 5th December when a section of the trailing edge was torn.
Whitehaven News, 12 December 2013
‘A blade that flew off a wind turbine into a field earmarked for development could have killed someone, says a Copeland councillor.
‘The high winds were so strong last Thursday that an arm of the turbine at Seascale School flew off and landed 200 yards away in a field.
‘Concerned councillor David Moore said it was “potentially harmful” particularly as outline permission was granted six weeks ago by Copeland Council for 14 houses to be built on the site where the blade landed.
BBC News, 27 October 2013
‘A wind turbine has collapsed in strong winds which swept across Devon on Saturday night.
‘No-one was reported injured after the 27m (89ft) high turbine came down in a field at Higher Rixdale Farm at Luton, near Teignmouth.
UTV, 2 July, 2013.
‘A wind turbine caught fire in Co Londonderry on Monday evening.
‘It happened at the Glenconway Wind Farm on Baranailt Road in Limavady at 9.30pm.
‘Local fire crews and the Specialist Rescue Team from Belfast were called to deal with the “substantial” blaze, which took hold of insulation material 130ft inside the turbine.
Halifax Courier, 8 May, 2013.
‘Walkers had a narrow escape as blades on a wind turbine ripped off in high winds across common moor land.
‘The 17m turbine blades split and scattered across Ovenden Moor Wind Farm, Cold Edge Road, Wainstalls, Halifax.
‘Walkers and local residents were stunned at what could have been a nasty accident and fear for further blade breakages.
Cornish Guardian, 6 February, 2013
‘The blade of a wind turbine on the edge of Bodmin Moor was being replaced this week after being shattered by a lightning strike [5 weeks previously].
‘The turbine was one of two which provides power for the Cornish Natural Spring Water Company which produces five million bottles of water a year from an underground lake at Treboy Farm, St Clether, and sells all over the country.
It has also emerged that one of two 17m (55ft) 11kW Gaia turbines installed at Winsdon Farm, North Petherwin – the family farm of Liberal Democrat Cornwall councillor Adam Paynter – was badly damaged during the recent bad weather.
Western Morning News, 1 February, 2013.
‘Safety concerns have been raised over wind turbines and a fresh investigation has now been launched after a second tower was said to have been toppled during high winds in Cornwall.
Northern Echo, 29 January, 2013
‘BLADES from an 18m high wind turbine have snapped off after a night of heavy rain and winds.
‘The turbine in a field near Bishop Auckland was built last year after planning permission was granted in November, 2011.
‘The 18m high turbine, which had a blade diameter of 16m, was in a field between Brusselton Lane and the A68 at Brusselton near West Auckland.
This is North Devon, 29 January, 2013.
‘A 35-metre turbine has collapsed near Holsworthy leaving the tower lying on the ground.
‘The turbine at East Ash Farm in Bradworthy was erected in 2010 by Dulas Ltd.
‘Dulas has confirmed this morning that a “complication” has occurred with the turbine and the situation is currently being investigated. They did not want to comment further.
‘The Endurance Wind Power E-3120 turbine, which was the first model of its kind to be erected in the country, has a five year warranty.
Another Endurance E-3120 turbine suffered a catastrophic collapse at Wattlesborough, near Shrewsbury, Shropshire, on 19 January last year (2012). See below.
BBC News, 15 June 2012
‘A wind turbine manufacturer has been fined £26,000 after admitting health and safety failings at a site where a teenage worker fell 100ft to his death.
‘Basilio Brazao, 19, from Brazil, died instantly when he fell down the shaft of a wind turbine at the Earlsburn wind farm near Fintry, Stirlingshire.
BBC News, 6 June 2012.
‘The owners of a French-made wind turbine have been advised to keep people away from them after bits started falling off.
‘The Northern Ireland Health and Safety Executive gave the warning and advised the 17 owners to lower the turbines the ground.
‘The warning came after the blade assembly fell off several machines.
Highland News, 9 May, 2012.
‘WIND turbines beside Highland schools - including Holm primary and Culloden Academy - are being switched off today amid safety fears about the possible threat to children.
‘The switch off comes after a turbine collapsed forcing the closure of one Highland School and concerns were voiced about the lack of fencing around the turbines to protect the kids in event of a malfunction.
‘The initial feedback from a review by the Building Research Establishment, has now prompted the council’s move to shut off the turbines which are sited in, or near to Highland schools.
It is reported that a 32.4m (112.2 ft) Endurance E-3120 turbine suffered a catastrophic collapse at Wattlesborough near Shrewsbury, Shropshire on 19 January, 2012.
The controversial turbine had only recently been commissioned.
See: ‘More trouble with wind turbines’, Shropshire Star, 20 January, 2012.
It is reported that engineers are investigating the cause of the catastrophic failure of one of 103 Mitsubishi turbines at Penrhyddlan & Llidiartywaun (P&L) Wind Farm, near Llandinam, in December. *
* Shropshire Star, 13 January, 2012.
Huddersfield Daily Examiner, 6 January, 2012.
‘Huge turbine blades flew off three windmills as high winds lashed Huddersfield.
‘There were problems at Hepworth and at two farms in Upper Cumberworth.
‘But the Brighouse firm who made the damaged turbines has promised a full investigation.
‘A fourth windmill, in Holmfirth, has also been damaged in the gales of the past few days.
‘Concerned villagers in Hepworth warned: “Someone could have been killed,” after one of the blades was flung across a road.
‘Ryan Gill, of Brighouse-based manufacturers Evoco, told the Examiner it is not yet clear why the turbine malfunctioned and investigations are under way.
A turbine in a turbine park operated by Infinis near Ardrossan, North Ayrshire, caught fire and burnt out on 8 December, 2011.
The turbines were not generating at the time due to gale force winds.
“As a standard precautionary measure, all Infinis staff vacate wind farms when wind speeds exceed 55 mph and therefore no one was present on site at the time of the incident,” (Press release from Infinis).
One wonders why Infinis evacuate their staff but not the public.
Huddersfield Daily Examiner, 1 December, 2011.
‘A wind turbine came crashing down as high winds and burst of torrential rain swept across Huddersfield.
‘The turbine was one of two that had been put up on fields off Halifax Road at Scapegoat Hill earlier this year.
The Telegraph, 5 October 2011.
‘An eco-friendly school has been left £55,000 out of pocket after its wind turbine broke – with governors admitting that it was based on “completely unproven technology”.
‘The company that installed the turbine has gone bust leaving the school with a pile of scrap.
‘The Gorran School in Cornwall revealed its 15 metre turbine in 2008 which was designed to provide it with free electricity - and sell any surplus power to the National Grid.
‘The system was seen as a green blueprint for clean, sustainable energy for schools nationwide and received grants from various bodies including the EDF power firm.
‘But soon after being installed the wind turbine became faulty and after a few months seized up - showering the school's playing field with debris.
‘Since then the school has been locked in a battle with suppliers Proven Energy which has now gone into administration leaving the school with little hope of any money being returned - and a pile of scrap in their field.
The Sheffield Star, 6 October, 2011
‘Two wind turbines on South Yorkshire’s Advanced Manufacturing Park [!] are to be demolished after being mothballed for around two years, because the blades fell off one of them.
Western Daily Press, 23 September, 2011.
‘A council-owned wind turbine in Yeovil has been taken down for a second time amid concerns about its safety.
‘The future of the turbine is now uncertain after the company which supplied it went in to administration.
‘Technicians took down the turbine at Yeovil Innovation Centre in Copse Road after manufacturer Proven Energy warned of a defect. Three turbines of the same P35-2 type have suffered failures in high winds in recent months.
‘It is the second time the turbine has been dismantled. The propeller was removed for six months in November 2009 after problems developed on a turbine of the same design elsewhere in the UK.
Proven Energy, the Scottish manufacturer of smaller turbines used by farmers, has been put into receivership following the discovery of “acute technical” problems with its flagship P35-2 turbine.
Owners of over 600 turbines have been told to shut them down due to the risk of catastrophic mechanical failure.
‘Wind turbine firm closes as blade hazard is found’, Herald, Scotland, 17 September 2011.
The Comet, 6 September, 2011.
‘A blade from a wind turbine on the roof of the new Lister Hospital car park flew off in high winds last night (Monday) hitting a car.
‘The six-foot blade, part of a turbine that only became fully operational last week, hit a staff member’s car, damaging its roof.
Daily Post, North Wales, 27 October, 2010.
‘Fire crews were called to a wind turbine blaze at Tir Mostyn/Foel Goch windfarm near Nantglyn, Denbighshire. The fire started in one of the 25 turbines at the site near Llyn Brenig. A fire crew from Denbigh were on standby at the site for around two hours.’
Dorset Echo, 16th July 2010.
‘A WIND turbine at the Sailing academy has been blown down – by the wind.
‘The turbine in the academy’s car park was levelled in the early hours of yesterday as the Portland coastline was lashed by winds of up to 55 miles per hour.
Daily Record, Mar 23 2010
‘EUROPE’S largest wind farm ground to a halt after a 150ft blade snapped off one of the turbines.
‘All 140 of the giant machines were immediately shut down at the £300million development near Glasgow until they could be inspected.
‘Engineers at Whitelee wind farm, which is run by ScottishPower Renewables, were trying to work out why the blade came crashing down.
‘German company Siemens, who supplied the turbines, are also understood to be investigating.
‘The 360ft turbines are so massive that engineers have been able to climb inside them to try to detect the problem.
‘Over the weekend, the site at Eaglesham Moor, 13 miles from Glasgow city centre, was cordoned off to keep visitors away. Raymond Toms, 45, a teacher from East Kilbride, spotted the broken turbine as he cycled past on Sunday.
‘He said: “I was out for a bike ride and I saw one of the massive blades had broken clean off. It was quite unnerving really.
‘“You can walk right up to these things normally and touch them.
Daily Mail 2 December 2009.
‘A wind turbine collapsed just yards away from stunned students as it was being set up on a school field yesterday.
‘The playing field at Fakenham High School, Norfolk, was evacuated after the 40ft turbine fell, crushing the bonnet of a contractor's van.
Raasay children sent home after 50ft turbine collapsed
Press and Journal. 21 November, 2009.
‘Children at an island primary were sent home after a newly-installed wind turbine next to their school collapsed, it emerged yesterday.
‘Parents of youngsters at the 18-pupil Raasay Primary School were asked to collect their children following the incident on November 13.
‘The 50ft turbine will “remain out of commission” until an investigation has been carried out.
‘The 6KW machine was installed at the school earlier this month, but was soon the subject of complaints due to the noise it was making.
‘The turbine then collapsed, landing in the school’s playground, although no one was hurt.
‘A Highland Council spokesman confirmed that a meeting was held between representatives from the authority and school staff yesterday.
‘He said an independent appraisal of the turbine would now be carried out and that the blades would be removed within the next few days.
The Telegraph, 10 Oct 2009.
‘A blade on a wind turbine in Sheffield has broken in strong winds for the second time in 15 months.
‘Manufacturers of the 190ft high turbine, one of three owned by Sheffield University, are now investigating the damage at the site close to the city’s Parkway link road to the M1.
Dale Vince of Ecotricity has been assiduous in spreading the silly story that the turbines which suffered catastrophic blade failure at his Conisholme power station might have been struck by a UFO or some other mysterious external agent:
‘It was Mr Vince's willingness to consider paranormal explanations that drew attention to the UFO theories, and he told the Telegraph he was disappointed by the results [of the tests].’
As most sensible people with any knowledge of the wind industry know, it is never UFO’s, little green men or sabotage by low-flying NIMBY’s on broomsticks which are responsible for the frequent failure of turbine blades. It is the more mundane story of poor design, defective construction, material failure, lightning strike or poor maintenance (or permutate any combination). The usual consequences are loss or break up of blades, sometimes resulting in the catastrophic collapse of the entire structure as blades impact on the tower.
Unsurprisingly, Enercon, the manufacturers of the Conisholme turbines, have now discovered that the bolts attaching a blade failed.
This is of little comfort to people who live close to massive turbines with 40 to 50m long blades that weigh 8 to 12 tonnes (61.5m blades now being built weigh nearly 18 tonnes). Broken blades, or pieces thereof, have travelled hundreds of metres in previous blade failures.
(See:‘UFO wind turbine “broke due to mechanical failure not collision with flying object”’, The Telegraph, 10 Feb 2009.
‘Are UFO's to blame for the chaos at Conisholme wind farm?’, Louth Leader, 5 January 2009).
Belfast Telegraph, 18 June 2008.
‘A farmer has described the shocking moment a 16-foot wind turbine blade smashed through the roof of his home as his family slept inside.
‘“It was like a bomb hitting the roof of the house. It shattered the tiles and the blade disintegrated itself,” David Campbell told the Belfast Telegraph.
‘The turbine was one of a batch of 11 defective machines installed on farms in Northern Ireland with the help of European funding provided by the Department of Agriculture.
Lowestoft Journal, 28 March, 2008.
‘Owners of the UK's tallest mainland wind turbine have admitted that it was unable to generate electricity for nearly five months after two lightning strikes.’
Cumberland News & Star, 27 June 2006.
‘The blade of a wind turbine disintegrated and fell 200ft after being struck by lightning near Workington.
‘Police cordoned off the area after the incident amid fears that more debris could fall from the turbine at Oldside.
‘A member of the public, who witnessed the spectacular lightning strike earlier this month, alerted police.
‘Sgt Peter Garforth said: “The blade was made of fibre glass. If anyone had been underneath it, they could have been sliced into pieces."
Oneida Dispatch, 25 October, 2014
‘FENNER --A windmill in Fenner caught fire Friday night, lightening the night sky with flames.
‘Smithfield Volunteer Fire Department responded to a call around 10:30 p.m. on Peterboro Road in the town of Fenner to the scene of a fire at the top of a windmill.
DRdk [Danish Radio, includes video], 23 October, 2014.
‘A large wind turbine at Roslev, near Skive, lost two blades on Tuesday evening. It is the first time that a wind turbine has thrown its blades in this fashion in Denmark [Laughably untrue! Ed].
‘While one blade landed at the foot of the 14-year old Vestas turbine, the other ended up at least 30-40 metres away.
‘The wind was not blowing at more than 10 metres per second on Tuesday evening, so the wind cannot be blamed. Technicians from Vestas have therefore started to investigate the wrecked wind turbine.
[...]’ [Our translation]
Jacksboro Newspapers, 20 October, 2014
‘A wind turbine caught fire north of Bryson this afternoon shortly after 1 p.m.
‘The turbine, located south of Loving Road in the Cox Mountain vicinity, part of the Senate Wind Farm, burned as firefighters monitored it.
‘No one from Gamesa, the contractor providing operations, warranty and maintenance service, or Algonquin Power, the majority owner of the wind farm, was available for comment.
‘The turbines that comprise the Senate Wind Farm are Gamesa G9X-2.0 MW wind turbines.
‘The 75 turbine 150 megawatt farm was completed in November 2012.’
Hartlepool Mail 18 September, 2014.
‘Safety concerns have been raised over three proposed huge wind turbines for Hartlepool after a blade broke off the same model type in Germany.
‘Plans have been lodged with planners at Hartlepool Borough Council for the single turbines, with a ground-to-tip height of 677ft making them the tallest in all of England and Wales.
‘The intended locations for them are land at Graythorpe Industrial Estate, adjacent to TATA Steel off Brenda Road and Tofts Road West, all in Hartlepool.
‘But fresh fears have been raised by Seaton Carew independent councillor Paul Thompson.
‘It comes after it emerged that monitoring devices had to be installed in turbines of the same make after a blade snapped off one at a wind farm in south-west Germany last December.
A turbine at Seehausen, near the town of Wanzleben caught fire and burned out on Sunday, 13 July.
This is the second turbine in the area to catch fire in nine months.
Firefighters could do nothing but maintain a watching brief while the turbine nacelle and blades burned.
Southern Star, Monday, 30 June, 2014.
‘Three units of Bantry Fire Service fought a blaze when one of ten turbines at Cappaboy Beg windfarm caught fire last week.
‘Bantry Fire Station officer Ian Vickery said they were alerted to the fire – at the Pass of Keimaneigh.
‘“The blades on one of the turbines went on fire. One blade sheared off and landed 200m away, setting fire to forestry and another landed 50m away, setting fire to hill and gorse,” Mr Vickery said. A substantial area of rough grazing was burnt but very little of the young forestry was affected.
ABC News, 29 April, 2014
‘A small airplane heading back to South Dakota after a Texas cattle sale crashed into a wind farm in foggy weather, killing the pilot and three passengers.
Albion News, 27 April, 2014.
‘A section of a blade fell to the ground Monday, April 21, at about 1 p.m. from one of the wind towers of the Prairie Breeze Wind Energy Center, northwest of Petersburg in Boone County.
‘Winds were strong in the area that day, and wind farm owner Invenergy said the blade at Prairie Breeze unit #51 experienced a structural failure.
reNews, 4 April 2014.
‘A GE blade has failed at the 200MW Wildcat 1 wind farm in Indiana for the second time in two months.
‘Yesterday a blade broke off a 1.6MW turbine at the project, which is owned by Eon Climate and Renewables North America.
‘The US turbine manufacturer has initiated a root cause analysis of the event, GE spokesperson Lindsay Thiele told reNews.
‘“Early signs indicate that lightning was the cause from the severe storm that went through the area,” said Thiele.
‘There were no injuries or damage to other turbines or equipment. Wildcat 1 started commercial operation in winter 2012. It features 125 GE machines.
‘In February another turbine blade broke off at the project.
‘GE recently attributed blade breaks in December at the Orangeville Wind Farm in New York and Echo Wind Park in Michigan to a spar cap manufacturing problem.
WJACTV (video), 25 February, 2014.
‘ADAMS TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- Wind turbines overlooking a community in Cambria County will not be turning anytime soon due to broken blades.
‘Officials with EverPower, who own the turbines near Dunlo in Adams Township, said the fiberglass blades on one turbine broke Monday afternoon, snapping in half and were left hanging in the air.
‘Officials said it is not common that the fiberglass blades fail, but they plan on replacing the blades.
‘There were no reported injuries due to the broken turbine.
A 1.65MW Vestas turbine suffered a serious nacelle fire on Friday, 21 February at a wind farm in Echtrop, in North Rhine-Westphalia.
Firefighters from a number of surrounding areas attended with aturntable ladder but were unable to do anything to fight the fire at 70m above ground level without endangering personnel.
The nacelle was destroyed by the fire, with debris falling to the ground. The three 33m turbine blades blades had not yet fallen when the press were notified.
The Akron Hometowner, 6 February, 2014
‘Early Feb. 4, the Akron-Westfield School District’s wind turbine’s blade began rotating.
‘On its own.
“We have no control over the blades’ turning,” said A-W Shared Superintendent Randy Collins. “It is life-threatening to be near the wind turbine at this point.”
Nordjyske.de, 28 January, 2014.
‘FREDERIKSHAVN: Two of three blades on a Vestas turbine at Højstrupvej west of Frederikshavn broke on the night between Sunday and Monday [26/27 January]. More than half of the two 44 metre long blades fell down.
‘The damaged turbine is brand new V90 model of 3MW headline capacity. It was commissioned in the beginning of December.
[...]’ [Our translation].
Energiwatch, 20 January, 2014.
A wind turbine burst into flames at Fjerritslev near Vendsyssel in Nordjylland.
‘Nordjyske reports: “When we were driving out towards the turbine we could see from a long distance that there were flames and thick, black smoke”, says Niels Nygaard, an officer with Jammerbugt Kommune’s emergency services, to Nordjyske.
‘He says that the fire in the nacelle was allowed to burn out because it did not threaten buildings in the vicinity.
It is the second time in only a few weeks that an NEG Nicon turbine has caught fire. The latest incident was on 8 January, when a turbine at Skærbæk near Tønder in Sønderjylland burnt for a whole night.
[...]’ [Our translation].
Söhrewald / Kassel. A Vestas wind turbine at a new wind farms in the Söhre has been hit by lightning. An approximately five feet long section of blade broke off and fell down despite lightning conductor protection.
The wind farm on the Warpel was finished a few weeks ago.
HNA.de, 5 January, 2014.
The German press reports a blade snapping off an E126 turbine at Donnersbergkreis, Rhineland, northern Germany on 30 December.
The turbine was commissioned in 2010.
The turbine uses segmented steel-composite hybrid blades which are 61.5 metres long, and weigh some 31 tons. The blade snapped off in one piece and was found some 40 metres from the base of the 135 metre tower.
The second-generation Enercon E126 7.5MW wind turbine is still, at 198 metres, the largest turbine in the world.
It is reported that a storm caused the catastrophic collapse of one of three Enercon E40 turbines at Döhlen, in the Oldenburg region.
The local press reports that three turbine blade accidents have happened in the past at local wind parks.
More information: NZW Online, 10 December, 2013.
One of eleven large wind turbines in an array near Vlatten, in the district of Düren suffered a catastrophic collapse during a storm on Thursday, 5 December.
More informaqtion: Aachener Zeitung, 6 December 2013.
Donegal Daily, 6 December, 2013
‘Another Donegal wind turbine has been smashed – by high winds!
‘A blade on a turbine at Corkermore wind farm has snapped clean off and embedded in the ground below.
Click Green, 23 November, 2013.
‘Wind turbine makers GE has confirmed it has launched a “thorough investigation” into one of its flagship models after a series of blade failures.
‘The latest mechanical breakdowns occurred last week when 48.7m-long blades fell off TWO separate GE 1.6-100 wind turbines at different locations in the US in the space of just four days.
‘A third blade failure was reported the previous week at another wind farm and now GE customers in the UK are being contacted with news of the investigation.
‘The company has installed over 20,000 wind turbines worldwide and has received several orders for the high performance 1.6-100 turbine in the UK. To date, GE has supplied or is under contract to supply more than 163.10 MWs of wind turbines to the UK.
‘Fears of a flaw in the huge structures could be costly to the company and heighten public safety concerns.
‘When Siemens launched a similar safety probe earlier this year into two broken blades on its B53 turbine it triggered a slump in sales and cost the head of its wind division his job.
Edgar County Watchdogs, 21 November, 2013
‘Early this morning, there was a wind turbine failure at the California Ridge Wind Farm just north of Oakwood, Illinois near the Newtown Middle School location.
‘What we do know at this time is that blade debris was thrown an unknown distance from the turbine, and residents described the incident as “sounded like loud thunder” and “sounded like two trains crashing”. Witnesses also state that the incident shook their whole house, somewhat similar to an earthquake.
‘InvEnergy workers are on site and have cleaned the debris from the surrounding field, dragging it up to the base of the turbine.
YNN Rochester, NY, 18 November, 2013
‘WYOMING COUNTY, N.Y. — “My husband and I heard a boom, but we thought it was just the hunters and then we realized it was too loud so we thought it was like a cannon and then there was some rumbling and so we thought, maybe it's thunder,” said Varysburg resident Ginny Gay.
‘Gay’s home in Varysburg is surrounded by wind turbines - 58 of them. The General Electric 1.6 megawatt turbines were recently installed by Invenergy at the Orangeville Wind Farm.
‘The turbines are big. From the base to the tip of an upright blade, they stand at 425 feet tall. Each individual blade is 160 feet long and weighs 200,000 pounds.
‘The loud noise Ginny woke up to Sunday morning wasn't thunder or a cannon. It was a blade from a turbine behind her home crashing to the ground.
Windpower Monthly, 31 October 2013
‘Several onshore wind turbine fires in Germany in recent months have triggered media interest, with even financial newspaper Handelsblatt reporting a single turbine fire in Saxony Anhalt.
‘The Saxony Anhalt incident happened at a three-turbine project near Klein Rodensleben on 27 October 2013 during stormy weather. The local fire-fighting association Feuerwehrverband Börde e.V. said the nacelle burnt out completely and a burning blade fell to the ground.
‘Burning debris flew several hundred metres but no one was hurt and the fire did not spread on the ground, the fire association reported that day. Vestas said Handelsblatt’s claim it was one its turbines was incorrect.
‘Speaking to Windpower Monthly, Energiequelle, which owns the Windpark Wanzleben-Rodensleben, said the turbine was a Fuhrlander 1.5MW. He said the fire was due to a technical fault, not the storm.
‘Other recent turbine fires include an Enercon 800kW turbine that went up in flames at the Windpark Sande on 11th October 2013, the NWZ-Online newspaper service reported 15th October 2013.
‘An eight-year old Nordex 1.5MW turbine in Windpark Regiowind plus Lahr/Seelbach caught fire on 25th September 2013.
NL Times, 30 October, 2013.
‘A wind turbine caught fire Tuesday afternoon in Ooltgensplaat on Goeree-Overflakkee, costing the lives of two mechanics. Four mechanics were at work in the wind turbine on the Mariadijk, about 80 meters above ground, Tuesday afternoon. By a cause, yet unknown, a fire started in the engine room.
‘Two mechanics managed to get themselves to safety in time, reported a police spokesperson. Rescuers found the body of a deceased mechanic next to the wind turbine on the ground.
‘Because of the height the fire department initially had trouble extinguishing the fire in the engine room. In the evening, a special team of firefighters went up with a large crane, and found the body of the missing man.
Badische Zeitung, 25 September, 2013
‘A fire has consumed one of the three wind turbines at Schlossbühl /Kempfenbühl above the Langenhard. Initial estimates of the cost of the damage are one to two million Euros according to Arno Markowsky, CEO of Freiburg green energy group.
‘At 12.38, the alarm was received at the control center. The column of smoke was widely visible in the Rhine valley. In order not to bring his men into danger, Fire Chief Thomas Happersberger decided not get close.
‘It is presumed that the fire broke out in the generator. The cause of the fire is still unknown. The operators have experts on site. With a rotor diameter of 77 meters, Happersberger decided to shut off the windmill.
‘Happersberger requested additional forces of the riot police and the police to secure a wide area in the forest paths on the ridge between Lahr and Seelbach to prevent any onlookers being endangered.
‘Barely an hour after the fire was reported the first rotor blade was in flames. Just ten minutes later it crashed noisily to the ground, producing a cloud of toxic black smoke. The rotors are made of glass fiber composites, the tower itself from steel. [Our translation].
Wind Power Monthly, 25 September, 2013
‘CHINA: Eight wind turbines have blown down by typhoon-strength winds in south China's Guangdong Province.
‘Typhoon Usagi, the most powerful this year, also broke off blades of another nine wind turbines when it hit the Honghaiwan Wind Farm in coastal Shanwei City, Guangdong.
It is reported that a transporter carrying a 64m turbine section has crashed off a road near Ardara, Co Donegal.
The transporter was carrying replacement parts for a Vestas turbine which had inexplicably collapsed in fairly low winds in March this year. The turbine had only been in operation for 4 years.
The operators have offered no explanation for the collapse.
‘Lorry carrying €1.5m wind turbine crashes in Donegal’, Independent.
SCTimes, 12 July. 2013.
Work is underway at St. Cloud VA Health Care System to repair a wind turbine that’s been idle for most of the past 12 months.
But those efforts were hindered by the latest in a string of setbacks this week when a replacement gearbox for the turbine, expected to get the machine working as soon as this week, was discovered to have been damaged during shipment from India.
But the damage shouldn’t significantly delay the repair timeline, St. Cloud VA Health Care System public affairs officer Barry Venable said Friday. The damage should be able to be repaired on-site.
VA officials hope the turbine will be generating power again as soon as next week, depending in part on wind conditions that can slow repair work.
It’s the latest development in the ongoing effort to bring the turbine up to speed after more than two years of false starts. The 250-foot-tall turbine that looms near Minnesota Highway 15 has made the issue all the more noticeable.
The turbine has been out of operation for all but about one hour since August 2012 and has operated only about 20 percent of the time since it was installed in 2011, Venable said.
LA Times, 1 July 2013.
‘Amid reports of wind turbine blades flying off and a resulting flurry of damage control measures, engineering powerhouse Siemens said Monday the chief of its wind power division would step down, two weeks after announcing costs related to incidents in California and Iowa.
‘In a news release, Siemens said Felix Ferlemann, 53, was leaving “by mutual agreement to pursue new career challenges.”
‘Markus Tacke, who had been serving as chief executive of the industrial power business unit within Siemens’ energy division, will replace Ferlemann, who became chief executive in October 2011.
‘“Felix Ferlemann provided essential stimuli, and we thank him for his commitment,” Michael Süß, chief executive of the company’s energy sector, said in a statement.
‘Siemens, based in Munich, said it would take unspecified charges for the quarter that ended Sunday after taking measures to slow rotation speeds or stop 707 wind turbines in the U.S. The move came after blade breaks were reported in California and in Iowa, most recently in May at an Imperial County wind farm. A massive blade came loose at the Ocotillo Express Wind project and landed nearby. No one was injured in the late-night incident.
‘Siemens said in a separate announcement June 17 it would shut down its solar energy division after failing to find a buyer since putting it up for sale in October 2012.
Recharge News, 3 June 2013
‘Siemens Wind Power has been hit by yet another fire in Jutland, Denmark – this time at its plant in Engesvang.
‘Saturday afternoon’s blaze was the fourth at Siemens’ wind operations in Jutland this year.
Hutchinson News, 3 June, 2013
‘Siemens Energy officials ordered wind turbines using its B53 rotor blade - manufactured at its Fort Madison, Iowa, plant - to run at significantly reduced speeds while the company works to determine what caused two blades to fall from turbines at two wind farms in recent weeks.
‘The latest incident was on a turbine at Pattern Energy’s recently completed 94-turbine Ocotillo Wind Project in California, about 75 miles east of San Diego, which came online in December. The 10-ton blade on a Kansas-made SWT-2.3-108 wind turbine broke off May 16 near the blade root, where the blade attaches to the nacelle, and fell some 240 feet to the ground in the middle of the night.
‘A blade on the same model of turbine broke off at MidAmerican Energy’s 200MW Eclipse wind farm in Iowa on April 5.
Austin Daily Herald, 22 May, 2013
‘It’s quite clear to any observer that one wind turbine near Dexter doesn’t look like it’s supposed to.
‘Wind farm technicians and officials with EDF Renewable Energy believe one wind tower, just northeast of Dexter, was struck by lightning on April 24, which mangled one of the structure’s 37-meter, 14,000-pound blades.
‘The blade is nearly bent in half but still attached to the structure, hundreds of feet in the air.
North American Windpower, 16 May 2013.
‘NAW has learned that a blade belonging to a Siemens SWT-2.3-108 wind turbine came crashing to the ground at the 265 MW Ocotillo Wind Farm in the early morning hours of May 16. No one was injured.
‘A spokesperson from Pattern Energy, which owns and operates Ocotillo, corroborated the incident. Calls to Siemens were not returned at press time.
‘Local resident Jim Pelley, who happened on the scene, says it appears the blade snapped at the base of the rotor. He says local wind conditions at the time of the accident were well within what is considered customary for wind speeds in the area. Citing an online source, Pelley says the largest wind gust recorded that morning reached 29 mph.
Wind Power Monthly, 30 April 2013.
‘NORWAY: NTE, a Norwegian small regional energy company, has revealed severe problems with all 13 ScanWind turbines installed at its Hundhammerfjellet R&D onshore project.
‘A Norwegian source told WPM the issue is in connection with the yaw bearings. A notice released by the Oslo stock exchange on 22 April said all of the turbines have been taken out of service until the facts have been clarified.
‘“Any repairs will likely involve significant costs. As a result, the value of Hundhammerfjellet Research Park was written down by a further NOK 191 million (EUR 25 million) in 2012 and all ScanWind turbines are valued at zero,” NTE reported.
Wind company fails to call fire department, lets blaze burn overnight
East County Magazine, San Diego County, California.
‘April 27, 2013 (San Diego’s East County)—Why is there no federal requirement for wind farm operators to report fires?
‘That troubling fact came to light following a turbine malfunction that caused a fire, destroying a $4 million wind turbine at the Kibby Mountain facility in Maine. Opponents accuse Trans-Canada of a cover up, the Bangor Daily News reports. (Trans-Canada, builder of the project, is also the company seeking to construct the controversial Keystone Pipeline.)
‘A sensor in the turbine detected the fire. But an employee did not arrive on scene until the next morning, after the fire had burned itself out. The fire department was never notified, nor was any state agency. Had the blaze not occurred in winter with snow on the ground, the fire could have spread to the adjacent forest, a Maine forestry official has stated.
‘ECM has asked Cal-Fire in an e-mail whether wind facility operators are required to report fires to fire officials. No response has been received.
‘The turbines were made by Vestas. The company’s turbines have previously been involved in fires elsewhere, including an April 2013 fire in Ontario, Canada, a March 30, 2012 fire in Germany a June 2012 fire in Spain, and a 2011 fire in Scotland in which a turbine ignited in high winds.
‘The wind industry claims wind turbine fires are rare. But the facts suggest otherwise. Vestas is not the only manufacturer plagued with fires linked to equipment failures. Hundreds of fires have occurred, and likely more, since there is no reporting requirement in many locations.
‘Two brush fires in California in July 2012 were caused by wind turbines. A wind turbine fire in Riverside caused a wildfire that burned 367 acres; nearby residents in a box canyon narrowly escaped disaster. Also last summer, a wind turbine sparked a grass fire in Tehachapi.
‘The website “Turbines on Fire” observes that “ you only have to look at insurers’ reports to get a better understanding of accident rates and insurance claims made by wind energy developers to get a truer account of the health and safety aspect of turbines. According to the IMIA Insurance of Wind Turbines report, a report that was compiled based on 15 years of the Wind Energy industry in Danish markets; Mechanical faults (blade failure and other faults) accounted for 40% of claims, Lightning accounted for 20% of claims, Fire accounted for 7% of claims, Storm accounted for 4% of claims, Liability for 0.5% of claims, and Others (LOP, short circuit, etc.) accounted for 28.5% of claims.
‘In December 2011 the Daily Telegraph reported that RenewableUK confirmed that there had been 1500 wind turbine accidents and incidents in the UK alone in the past 5 years.
KBZK.com, Bozeman, Montana, 9 April, 2013.
‘Something big is missing at the Eclipse Wind farm in Adair, Iowa - a gigantic wind turbine blade broke loose and crashed into a field.
‘On Friday, a technician discovered one of the blades - which are almost the size of a football field - on the ground instead of in the air.
‘Siemens Energy, the turbine manufacturer, is now leading a full investigation into the unusual incident.
Wind Power Monthly, 3 April 2013
‘CANADA: An investigation is under way at a 40MW project in Ontario after one of its Vestas V80 1.8MW turbines caught fire.
‘The fire was at the Kingsbridge project, near Goderich, which was built in 2005. It is owned by utility Capital Power. Images of the incident show the nacelle was completely burnt out.
‘In 2011, a 2MW V80 caught fire in high winds at the Ardrossan wind farm in Ayrshire, Scotland. The incident occurred as the northern half of the UK faced winds of up to 165 miles per hour.
‘Last year Vestas was hit by a number of fires in its turbines. In April, the nacelle of a V112 3MW turbine caught fire in Germany, while in June a V90 in Spain suffered a similar fate.
Donegal News, 24 March 2013
‘A TECHNICAL examination is to resume this morning (Monday) after a huge 245-foot high [Vestas V52] wind turbine came crashing down during heavy winds near Ardara at the weekend.
‘Dramatic pictures taken in the aftermath of Thursday evening’s incident on the windfarm at Loughderryduff, near Mass, Portnoo show the main stem lying flat on the ground and debris spread over a wide area.
‘The turbine, which has a lifespan of around 25 years, fell just four years after being erected in the eight-unit development.
(EUVY, Marne, 17 March 2013). It is reported that one of seven large large industrial turbines near Fère-Champenoise burnt for 15 hours after what is thought to be an electrical fault set fire to the structure.
Business Recorder, 15 March, 2013
‘TOKYO: A 38-tonne wind turbine crashed 50 metres (165 feet) to the ground in western Japan after the steel column supporting it snapped, officials have said.
‘The massive Dutch-made turbine, which sat atop a Japanese-made steel column, was part of a wind farm in mountains near Kyoto, and it had been installed in 2001 with an expected life of at least 17 years.
REcharge News, 9 January, 2013.
‘Spanish wind turbine maker Gamesa has denied any knowledge of or responsibility for a rotor blade that snapped off one of its 2MW G87 machines at the Allegheny Ridge wind farm in Pennsylvania over the weekend.
This is not the first accident at this facility: there was a turbine fire in 2012 and in 2007, shortly after the park opened, 7 turbine blades failed with pieces being thrown over 500 feet. The accident was blamed on manufacturing faults. See ‘BAD GLUING BLAMED FOR MISHAPS AT WIND FARM’, below.
The Times (Ottawa, Illinois), 4 December, 2012.
‘In light of recent turbine damage in Vermillion and Champaign counties, Livingston County officials have raised concerns regarding the wind farm in their county.
‘Last week, a blade broke from one of the 134 turbines in a recently built California Ridge Wind Farm in Vermillion and Champaign counties. The turbine is near Route 49 and Vermillion County Road 2700 North, a few miles southwest of Potomac and south of Armstrong.
‘This was the second turbine blade to break at wind farms in East Central Illinois this year. In June, the blade of a turbine at the Settlers Trail Wind Farm near Sheldon in Iroquois County broke.
‘More than 10 percent of the blades had to be replaced within the first year of operation.
‘“The industries are aware of problems with the blades,” noted Judy Campbell, a Livingston County Board member. “It doesn’t become significant when counties are negotiating with the companies until damage occurs. When you hear of damage like this, it raises issues for workers’ safety. Is it safe to farm under them?” Campbell noted that each blade weighs 6,000 pounds.
Vertikal.net, December 4, 2012.
‘A fatal wind farm incident happened yesterday morning at 10am on a site in Mannhagen, northern Germany. The operator of the Felbermayr owned Liebherr crawler crane was killed when a blade dropped onto the cab during the installation of Vestas turbines.
Hawaii News Now, 4 August, 2012.
‘The fire at the Kahuku wind farm is contained but environmental concerns within the community have spread including to the North Shore where First Wind is building another wind farm.
‘There are eight turbines already up on Kawailoa Ridge about five miles from Haleiwa. Eventually there will be 30 and some residents are concerned what happened in Kahuku could happen here.
‘Aerial shots over the Kahuku wind farm show the warehouse that was filled with 12,000 battery packs severely damaged and releasing toxic smoke and lead into the air. Authorities say the nearest residences downwind were miles away and it's very unlikely to pose a health risk.
‘First Wind is supposed to submit a cleanup plan to the state by the end of the day which will include samples of the air, soil and water. The State Department of Health will review the plan and decide if it's sufficient or if the state should do its own tests.
‘This was the third fire related incident at the Kahuku wind farm since it opened in March 2011. The battery energy storage system was hailed as breakthrough technology but clearly there are flaws.
East County Magazine, 31 July, 2012.
‘July 31, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) – With County Supervisors poised to consider approval of Tule Wind and a wind ordinance that could open much of fire-prone East County to wind energy development, a wildland fire that started at a wind turbine facility in Riverside County last month provides fuel for opponents concerned about fire risks posed by industrial-scale wind projects.
‘“The fire started with the windmill itself,” Captain Greg Ewing with Cal Fire/Riverside Fire Department informed ECM today.
‘Despite extensive area cleared around the base of each turbine, Ewing said, the blaze still spread into a wildland fire that swiftly engulfed 367 acres. If not for prompt reporting by a witness, it could have been far worse.
Austrian Independent, 20 June, 2012.
‘An Austrian wind farm had to be closed after a blade snapped off one of the wind turbines, and fell over 100 metres to the ground.
‘According to Austrian power the reason was a production fault and not because of a lightning strike as had previously been feared.
Windpower Monthly, 8 June, 2012.
‘SPAIN: A second Vestas turbine in as many months has caught on fire, it has emerged.
‘Only shortly after tackling a nacelle fire on one of its V112-3.0MW turbines in Germany in April, the Danish manufacturer has had to contend with another fire, this time on one of its V90-2MW machines in Spain.
Windpower Monthly, 24 May, 2012
‘FRANCE: A 46-metre blade has fallen off a Repower 2MW turbine at a project alongside the A10 motorway in France.
Within 400m of motorway, see EPAW.
WANE.com, 25 Apr 2012.
‘A wind turbine in Paulding County, Ohio has been badly damaged.
‘According to a spokesman with EDP Renewables, the [Vestas] turbine, which is located near Payne, had two of its blades sheared early Tuesday afternoon.
Vestas, 30 March, 2012
Vestas have issued a statement regarding a giant new Vestas V112 3.0MW turbine which caught fire today (30 March, 2012) at the Gross Eilstorf wind farm in Lower Saxony, Germany.
The cause of the blaze, which is burning out under “controlled conditions,” hasn’t been determined, the company said in a statement.
With hub heights of 84, 94 or 119 metres no conventional fire equipment can be used. Vestas offer an “optional extra” of a “Fire extinguishing system in nacelle”.
The V112 uses massive new 54.6m blades; a prototype V112 suffered a blade failure during testing in September, 2010 (see below).
Recharge News, 23 February, 2012.
‘An engineer has died and another classed as missing after a wind turbine made by China’s CSR caught fire in Inner Mongolia, according to local reports.
UPI, 13 February, 2012.
‘Researchers say offshore wind farms planned for the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico face severe risks from hurricanes that could destroy half of them.
‘Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University have modeled the risk hurricanes might pose to turbines at four proposed wind farm sites and found that nearly half of the planned turbines are likely to be destroyed over the 20-year life of the farms.
Firefighters and equipment from 4 fire stations turned out when a 300 ft turbine caught fire at Allegheny Wind Farm on 7 February, 2012.
All they could do was form a perimeter and monitor the area for fires caused by burning debris. The turbine eventually burnt out.
‘Blue Knob Firefighters respond to Wind mill fire’, First Responder Broadcast Network, 7 february, 2012.
WCAX News, 29 January, 2012.
‘Authorities are investigating what caused a wind turbine to catch fire in Northern New York.
‘It happened Saturday night in Altona. Officials say people driving by the windfarm noticed the fire in one of the 400 foot turbines. Noble Environmental, the owner of the windfarm, says no one was injured. The cause of the fire is not known.
‘Two years ago a turbine at the same park came crashing down when the blades spun out-of-control in high winds. An investigation in that case uncovered a wiring problem that prevented the turbine from safely shutting down.
The French Delta FM radio station reports that one of an array of 3 turbines close to the A16 motorway between Boulogne and Le Touquet lost a blade and suffered damage to the remaining blades in stormy weather on 4 January, 2012.
Luckily, the damaged blade parts were not blown onto the motorway.
Windpower Monthly, 8 November, 2011.
‘SPAIN: High winds and alleged lack of maintenance has have caused a 35-metre high Alstom turbine to fall onto the roadside of the N-340 highway in Tarifa, Spain's southernmost and windiest district.
‘As a wind hotspot, there are many such early experimental projects among hundreds of small turbines in Tarifa dating back to the early 1990s.
‘Locals have long complained many machines are neglected as proper maintenance is not profitable.’
The Star Beacon (Ashtabula, Ohio), 18 October, 2011.
‘CONNEAUT — The wind turbine struck by lightning this past summer sustained considerable damage but poses no safety threat to people, according to a message from the company that built the generator.
‘The lakefront turbine was constructed in early 2010, one of two machines erected by NexGen. The second is a larger turbine at Conneaut Middle School that has been plagued with problems since its arrival.
READER COMMENT: “So the 10 to 15 foot piece that blew off of the turbine in the last week and all the little pieces that have fallen since it got struck, have no threat to people. Hope I am not around it when the next 10 footer falls.” (Concerned, October 18, 2011, 3:48pm).
ReporterNews, 3 October, 2011.
‘Energy officials say they are taking down a charred 260-foot wind turbine to determine the cause of a fire that began Sunday evening in a rural area west of U.S. 277 and County Road 618, the second turbine blaze to hit the area in the past six weeks.
‘Sunday’s fire occurred less than a five-minute walk from the country home of state Rep. Susan King.
‘In an interview with the Reporter-News, King said the fire lit up “like the Paramount sign”, and was “akin to a Roman candle, with balls of fire flying out and onto the ground”.
RECharge News, 8 September, 2011.
‘Spanish wind turbine manufacturer Gamesa is investigating an incident that saw a rotor blade break-off from one of its machines in India.
‘The blade became detached from the G5X-850 850kW turbine earlier this week. Reports suggest the stray component hit a transmission line.
KTXS News, 25 August, 2011.
‘ABILENE, Texas -- Firefighters from at least three volunteer departments are on the scene of a burning wind turbine southwest of Abilene.
‘ECCA Fire Chief Gary Young said the fire started in the wind turbine tower and then spread to grass around the tower.
‘Young said firefighters are working in rough terrain trying to keep the fire from spreading to other towers in the area.
There was a spectacular, unexplained turbine collapse at a wind park in Kirtorf, Eastern Hesse, Germany, on Sunday, 19 June 2011.
‘Inquest hears of Ballybeg, Buttevant truck crash horror’, The Corkman, 26 May, 2011.
MyCentralJersey.com April, 2011.
‘LACEY — Hoping to save money by generating renewable energy from wind turbines instead of buying it from a power company, two Forked River farm owners had 120-foot turbines erected on their properties in December.
‘But by March 8, the turbines no longer were rotating. Three fiberglass blades ranging in weight from 265 to 290 pounds flew off the tower of the turbine at James Knoeller’s Christmas Tree Farm on Carriage Road on March 2.
‘Knoeller’s 17-year-old granddaughter, Sarah, was working with horses near the tower when the blades flew off.
‘“One of them nearly hit her,” Knoeller said. “The weather was fine. There were mild winds. One of the blades was found 215 feet away.
‘“The most disappointing aspect of this project prior to the blades falling off was the electric production was only 25 percent of what I was told I was going to get by Skylands Renewable Energy. The catastrophic blade failure was the last straw,” Knoeller added.
Bloomberg, 21 March, 2011
‘Iberdrola SA (IBE), the biggest producer of renewable energy, halted power production at a 150-megawatt wind farm in Rugby, North Dakota, after the blades of a Suzlon Energy Ltd. (SUEL) S88 generator fell from their mount.
Sacramento & Co., 20 January 2011.
‘SACRAMENTO, CA - The agricultural pilot killed while seeding a field in the Delta likely never saw the steel tower that caused the fatal crash, according to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board.
‘Stephen Allen, 58, of Courtland, struck an unmarked 198-foot tower Jan. 10 that had been erected on Webb Tract in 2009 to evaluate the possible placement of wind turbines, according to the NTSB.
‘Moore [National Agricultural Aviation Association executive director Andrew Moore] said at least 24 pilots have been killed by low towers in the past decade, although not all of the towers were METs [meteorological masts].
Victor Harbor Times, South Australia, 4 November, 2010.
‘CAPE JERVIS - Do you call the CFS in the event of a wind turbine fire?
‘While it might seem like the right thing to do, according to group officer for the Southern Fleurieu CFS Mr Greg Crawford, there is little to nothing the CFS can do in this situation, as officers found out at the weekend.
‘Last Saturday at 2.33 pm, the Southern Fleurieu CFS group was alerted to a fire at the Starfish Hill Wind Farm, near Cape Jervis, in which a turbine had caught alight.
‘The fire caused $3,000,000 in damage.
‘On arrival, CFS officers could do little but watch the blaze from half a kilometre away, as the situation was deemed too dangerous to approach.
“Local fire fighters could do little but watch the blaze from half a kilometre away as the situation was deemed too dangerous to approach ...WorkSafe officers ordered fire fighters a further 500 metres away as burning tips of the blades were flying off from the structure.”
The Courier, 20 November, 2010.
‘Waubra wind farm operator Acciona has confirmed a policy of allowing fires in turbines to burn out.
‘Director of generation Brett Wickham said the height of turbine poles, about 80 metres, precluded safe fire fighting.
Norddeutscher Rundfunk story, 13 November 2010, on a ‘drunken’ turbine at a turbine park at Hafentörn in Büsum, Schleswig Holstein. The whole structure was shown wobbling from side to side after losing a rotor blade.
The video has now been removed from the NR website.
23 September, 2010.
EPAW summary: ‘Media commentators said the turbines’ braking system failed, the machines revved up and caught fire. One of them exploded, sending burning debris into the vegetation and starting fires. Thank God it had rained two days before, said a woman to the journalist, but had this occurred in August, it would have been a different matter. The radio commentator said a similar incident occurred 8 years ago at the same windfarm.’
Bloomberg, 9 September, 2010.
‘A portion of the blade on the first prototype of the Vestas Wind Systems A/S V112 wind turbine broke off late yesterday in Denmark, Michael Holm, a spokesman for the company, said.
‘A six- to seven-meter (20 to 23 feet) portion came off the blade at the turbine in Lem, western Denmark, Holm said today in a telephone interview from Randers, Denmark. “We’re looking into the root cause. We don’t see this as a design error.”
Sioux City Journal (Iowa), 2 August, 2010.
‘A lightning strike started a fire in a wind turbine Saturday morning, destroying the turbine and one of three new blades that had been laid out on the ground beneath it in order to be installed as replacements. Damages totaled $760,000, according to Peterson Fire Chief John Winterboer.
‘The turbine was owned by Aes Wind Generation Inc., of Alta Iowa.
‘Winterboer said the call came in at 7:30 a.m., but firefighters were on the scene until 3:30 p.m. because they had to wait for the turbine and its three blades to burn enough to fall the 210 feet to the ground before they could extinguish the smoky blaze.
The Times (Ottawa, Illinois), 27 July 2010
‘Barbara Ellsworth was troubled, but not surprised Saturday morning when she spotted a broken blade on a wind tower near her home.
‘“We thought, ‘Hah! We knew that would happen.’”
‘Ellsworth and her husband Mike live three miles south of Marseilles on East 2450th Road, about 1,200 feet from a wind turbine and about 2,500 feet from one of the two towers damaged during the weekend, possibly by high winds. Chicago-based Invenergy Wind operates the string of towers that run through southeastern La Salle County.
Daily Chronicle (DeKalb, Illinois), May 8, 2010.
‘SHABBONA TOWNSHIP –Officials at NextEra Energy Resources aren't sure what caused one of the three blades on a wind turbine south of the village of Shabbona to fail Friday morning. The 131-foot-long blade hung from the top of the turbine Friday, apparently bent at the base and split along its length.
Daily Graphic [Manitoba, Canada], 1 July 2010.
‘An aerial spray plane clipped the top of a tower at the edge of a field north of Macdonald on Monday.
‘The plane was owned by Jonair and was preparing to spray a near-by field.
‘Jonair owner John Bodie said no one was injured in the incident, but damage to the plane means that it will not be usable for the rest of the season.
‘The 200-foot-high tower was put up to observe wind patterns for a potential wind farm.
‘The tower had no markings, paint or lights on it, making it very difficult to see, said Bodie.
Windaction.org (US) notes This is one of several recent incidents of small planes hitting unmarked anemometry masts at wind installations.
San Diego Union-Tribune, 13 January, 2010.
‘Workers are inspecting and repairing 75 wind turbine blades at a wind farm some 60 miles east of San Diego after a storm a month ago caused catastrophic damage to some of them.’
The Fenner turbine collapse remains unexplained, even after a lengthy investigation. The operators are now reinforcing the foundations of the remaining 19 turbines.
See full article.
Copenhagen Post, November 3, 2009.
‘Wind turbine blades rip loose near Esbjerg and southwestern Sweden, one landing on a hiking path.
‘A malfunction on a Vestas wind turbine in the town of Falkenberg on Sweden’s southwest coast could have resulted in tragedy, as one of the structure’s large blades flew off and landed on a track used by hikers.
‘Yesterday’s incident follows a similar one this weekend near Esbjerg, where a defective axle caused all of the blades on a 40m high turbine to rip loose, one of them hitting a power transformer.
‘Both wind turbines were produced in Denmark.
‘And, although no one was injured in either incident, the accidents have brought the problem of faulty wind turbines into focus. The wind turbine industry in Sweden has now proposed setting up a commission to investigate the many incidents.
Chabanet, near Privas, Ardeche (France) - ‘A wind turbine destroyed by Fire’[‘Une éolienne détruite par le feu’ - Le Dauphiné Libéré, 31 October 2009.]
‘[New Brunswick, Canada, 10 August, 2009]. New Brunswick’s first commercial wind farm will lose several weeks of electricity output from one of its 32 turbines after a major fire damaged the towering structure on the weekend.
The blackened shell of the wind turbine, much of its white coating peeled away, was obscured by fog and clouds at the TransAlta wind farm in Alberta County on Monday.
‘The fire originated 80 metres above ground in the structure’s turbine. Vestas, the company that supplies the turbines, will send a team to determine the cause this week.
‘The Saturday fire burned for more than an hour and extinguished itself even though Elgin, Riverview and Salisbury fire departments arrived on scene.
‘The fire departments did not have equipment to reach the fire, which towered high above the tree line.
(See full story: Telegraph-Journal article).
Brieske [Brandenburg, Germany], 3 July 2009. Lightning strike caused the catastrophic break up of a 40m turbine blade on Thursday, 2 July. Large pieces of blade flew for about 150 meters, landing about 50 meters from federal highway 169.
The blade damaged trees, cutting a track in the forest.
(See: Lausitzer Rundschau [in German]).
WPTZ.com, March 6, 2009.
‘ALTONA, N.Y. -- Noble Environmental Power has confirmed that a turbine collapsed at its Altona, N.Y., wind park Friday morning, but said no one was injured in the collapse and ensuing fire.’
‘Residents reported large explosions from the scene at about 9:30 a.m. NewsChannel 5 went to the scene off Purdy Road, which leads to the wind farm, and found Noble trucks blocking the roadway. Noble officials at the scene would not provide access to the area and offered no information about the situation at that time.’
‘Residents in the area told Newschannel 5 they heard what sounded like a large explosion and said the loud noises lasted for several minutes. Others equated the sound to an earthquake and speculated one of the company's large windmills may have thrown a blade. Another local resident told NewsChannel 5 she could see flames coming from Noble.’
‘The investigation by New York’s Department of Public Service found that the collapse of one turbine and failure of a second at the 65-turbine Noble Altona Windpark was the result of a wiring system that prevented the turbines from being automatically shut down in the event of a loss of electric power.’
(‘Noble Environmental Power faces questions over wind turbine collapse’, Brighter Energy Org. 17 May, 2010).
The Engineer, 26 February 2008.
‘The collapse of a wind turbine is far from unique in Denmark, the Technical Approval Authority at Risø [National Laboratory] states. It has happened between 10 and 15 times in the last three years, and poor maintenance is the most frequent cause.
[...]’ [Our translation].
The Danish Climate Minister, Connie Hedegaard, called for an investigation to determine the cause of the two violent wind turbine collapses in Denmark in one week in February 2008. Hedegaard's request to the Energy Board came after other accidents were reported in Denmark and elsewhere during the previous two months.
The author of the Danish video clip comments:
“The braking system failed while 2 technicians worked in the turret in the top. They got out before the collapse.
A 19 metre piece of the wing was thrown 200 metres away. Smaller pieces were sent more than 500 metres away..!!”
‘It all came down to glue. And how it was misapplied by workers. Spanish wind-energy company Gamesa said “insufficient and irregular distribution of glue” caused large pieces to break off seven turbine blades at the Allegheny Ridge Wind Farm near Lilly, Cambria County. No one was injured during the mishap in mid-March, but pieces of the blades flew more than 500 feet, according to residents.
‘From a distance, it is hard to comprehend how large the Gamesa turbine blades are - 140 feet long, about 14 feet wide and weighing about 7 tons, according to the company.
‘"It's something the size of a yacht flying through the air," said Brian Alger, an analyst who covers the wind-energy industry for Strata Capital Management in Beverly Hills, Calif.
‘Several of the blade pieces landed on property owned by James A. Davis, 69, of Lilly, and leased in part to Gamesa. One piece was thrown more than 500 feet before coming down through the trees, Davis said. That would put it outside the official 300-foot safety zone around each turbine.
(The Patriot-News, Pennsylvania, USA. May 7, 2007).
NEW HAMPSHIRE (October 16, 2008). Turbine #10 at the Searsburg wind energy facility in Searsburg, Vermont experienced a catastrophic failure when one of the blades came in contact with the turbine's tower causing it to buckle during high winds. This turbine's 28-ton nacelle and 3-blade rotor assembly crashed to the ground scattering debris several hundred feet from the structure. Approximately 20-gallons of heavy oil spilled from the unit when its fluid reservoirs were damaged. The 11-turbine Searsburg facility was brought online in 1997 and according to preconstruction documents, the turbines had an expected lifespan of 30-years.
Industrial Wind Action (IWA) Group’s executive director, Lisa Linowes, was not surprised by the failure. “The Searsburg towers are located at an elevation of nearly 3000-feet in some of the harshest weather conditions in New England. Performance issues and blade failures have plagued this project for some time,” she said pointing to incidences in May 2006 and again in May 2008.
While the eleven-year old Searsburg turbines are failing, newer models have not improved the safety record. “Wind developers today tout life expectancies of industrial wind turbines that exceed 20 years,” Linowes said, “but the fact remains that estimates of the functional lifespan of modern utility-scale wind turbines are speculative and cannot be substantiated since so far very few have been operating for ten years.” Unfortunately, unless a person or property is damaged in a turbine failure, there is no obligation for the owner of an industrial wind turbine to report the incident.
Information on the number and types of failures is sparse and poorly reported, and thus this vital data is not adequately incorporated into estimates of turbine longevity. The Searsburg failure occurred on September 15.
“What's more ominous,” Linowes said, “is that reports of turbine failures in the United States are increasing. These failures include blade throws, oil leaks, fires, and collapse.” IWA attributes the increase in reporting to the fact that the machines are more visible, being erected close to where people live, and also due to the growing interest in wind energy development. In the last year alone, IWA has tracked catastrophic failures in Idaho, Minnesota, California, New York, Pennsylvania and elsewhere, raising concerns about public safety.
ADEVA (French website), 14 May 2008
A 23 metre turbine blade, weighing some 3 tonnes, broke off and landed on the N245 road between Oudkarspel and Dirkshorn, Holland.
ELECTRICITY GENERATIONU.K. National Grid Status