Wacky windmill forces California highway shutdown
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)