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Wind turbine collapses, sparks fire

ALTONA – Area residents were startled Friday morning when they heard what sounded like explosions at Noble Environmental Power wind park here.

“It (the noise) was so consistent and lasted so long I thought it was a thunderstorm way off in the distance,” said Bernie Bullis, who lives about four miles away.

He had stopped at his home to pick up paperwork for work when the rumbling started.

“Then, I thought it might be an earthquake.”

Either way, he said, it was surprising and unusual.

The repetitive booming noise, which lasted a few minutes, wasn’t caused by the weather – it was a massive turbine collapsing to the ground off Fisher Way.

Noble officials said the 9:45 a.m. collapse then sparked a small fire at the base of the turbine.

No one was injured.

Neighbors could see thick smoke billowing at the rural wind park as Altona and Ellenburg Depot crews arrived to extinguish the blaze.

“I looked out and saw all the black smoke so I knew something was going on, but I never heard it (fall),” said Joanne Perry, who lives on Rand Hill Road.

The entire Altona wind park was shut down after the accident, but officials said no danger was posed to the public.

After two years of construction, dozens of turbines are scattered across the Northern Tier. There are about 270 turbines between the various projects in Clinton and Franklin counties.

It can take weeks to construct and energize a single turbine, which at full height stands about 392 feet tall.

The Altona project alone has cost more than $200 million.

Friday’s collapse was the first major problem reported at any of the area wind parks, which are insured.

It was unclear Friday what caused the collapse.

Noble officials are continuing to investigate and refused to release any additional information or say whether the collapse caused any other damage.

In a news release, Noble Environmental CEO Walt Howard said: “Noble values the safety of its employees and neighbors above all else. Noble has committed its full resources to understanding the cause of this incident.”

Local firefighters referred all comments to Noble.

Altona Town Supervisor Larry Ross did not return Press-Republican messages seeking comment on the collapse.