Wind Turbine Blade Tumble Called a "Singular Event"

Last week we noted how a planned wind farm in North Dakota has "fallen" due to concerns over endangered bird species. A more literal fall, though, took place last month at an existing North Dakota farm, when the blades of one of 71 turbines at a Pierce County installation tumbled to the ground. The companies involved are now calling that event "singular" and "very out of the ordinary."

Apparently, the blades were not aligned with a power shaft on the turbine tower, eventually causing bolts holding the blade in place to fail. Inspections of the bolts on other turbines are being carried out as a precautionary measure.

No one was hurt when the blades fell. The company that manufactures this particular turbine, Suzlon, told the AP that it is unclear why the misalignment occurred.

Wind power has by and large been a very safe form of power as it has scaled up in the last decade, but accidents like this one are not unheard of. "Wiring anomalies" caused damage to two towers in upstate New York in 2009, and an impressive video of an out-of-control turbine in Denmark made the rounds online in 2008. There have also been injuries: In 2007, a turbine tower on a wind farm that had yet to begin operations snapped in half and killed a maintenance worker.

Still, the safety concerns for other power sources -- from nuclear crises like that at Fukushima, recently upgraded in severity to match that of Chernobyl, to the BP oil spill or Upper Big Branch coal mine explosion -- far outpace that of wind power. No energy source, though, will ever be completely free of hazard.

(Image via ruei_ke)

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