Environment Forum

Wacky windmill forces California highway shutdown

May 4, 2009

Turns out birds aren’t the only ones with a reason to steer clear of wind farms.

This past weekend, a wind turbine spinning out of control forced California police to shut down a stretch of highway because of concerns that it could break into large, heavy, and very fast-moving pieces.

California Highway Patrol officers late on Sunday morning noticed that a roughly 125-foot tall turbine on a ridge near the desert town of Tehachapi was spinning much faster than any of the others at the Tehachapi farm.

“It looked like a propellor on an aircraft… and it was giving off a loud racket as it failed,” Officer Ed Smith said.

Officials contacted AES, the power company that owns the wind farm, and Smith said “it was determined that if it failed it could cast large pieces of steel and debris up to a mile from where the turbine was.”

Given that the state’s Highway 58 is less than half a mile from the location of the crazy turbine, which could not be stopped, officials resolved to shut down the road. It was closed for about 10 hours, Smith said, at which point the winds had died down enough to reopen it.

AES spokeswoman Meghan Dotter said the turbine was made in the mid-1980s by Denmark’s Vestas and was smaller than more modern models. The turbine’s brake failed, Dotter added, causing it to spin out of control in high winds of more 50 mph. The site is being monitored now, she said.

Turns out this sort of thing has happened before. In upstate New York, a General Electric-made turbine caught fire and collapsed in March after a wiring malfunction at Noble Environmental Power’s Altona Wind Park. No one was hurt, but debris from the turbine was flung a quarter of a mile away.

To see just how dramatic a wind turbine failure can be, check out the video of a separate incident below:

(Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall)

Photocredit: Reuters/Fred Prouser (A large wind turbine is pictured near Palmdale, California)

Comments
One comment so far | RSS Comments RSS

Uh,

….did anyone think that something that was built in the 80′s might oughta be taken off line by now????

What scares me are the “microburst” and I can honestly attest to the fact they are not fun at all! I cannot understand how even the strongest windturbine can survive after going through one of them!
Now on the bright side, I am still going ahead with building my wind turbine even though I live in the high desert an have clocked some of the wind gust at 82 m.p.h. so quit trying too discourage me! I am going too proceed anyway!

Posted by Carlos Gomez | Report as abusive
 

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
  •