ALTONA – Many residents were shocked that a massive wind turbine could come tumbling down and officials say it could take months to learn why one collapsed Friday.
Mike Fellion flew over the wreckage Saturday morning and was amazed to see that pieces of the structure appeared to have been thrown “about a quarter-mile away.”
“I was surprised,” said Fellion, who flew above the wreckage with his father, Victor, a volunteer pilot who runs the Wings of Life program, which provides emergency medical flights for ailing residents.
“I’m just hoping that this was an isolated incident.”
Neighbors around the Altona wind park reported hearing loud explosions before the turbine apparently snapped in half around 10 a.m. and then caught fire.
Helen Morales, who lives near the fallen Fisher Way turbine, didn’t hear anything, but earlier saw the blades on one turbine “spinning at a high rate of speed” and noted that the air appeared “cloudy” around it.
She doesn’t know if the faster-moving blades were attached to the affected turbine, but wonders if her observations were connected to Friday’s collapse, which was the first major incident at the Norther Tier wind parks.
Though the push for wind energy has received strong support from many local residents, others, like members of the West Beekmantown Neighborhood Association, feel they pose a danger to public safety and health and have resisted the efforts.
There are zoning regulations in place that restrict how close turbines can be erected near homes, but some wondered Saturday if similar collapses could happen and whether flying debris could extend beyond the protected perimeter.
As word of the collapse spread Friday, Adirondack Council spokesman John Sheehan expressed concern about the risks turbines could pose on elevated and sloped locations if a collapse could happen in flatland parks.
The Altona wind park will remain closed as the investigation continues.
In their latest update, Noble Environmental Power officials said it could take several months to finalize their investigation, which is being conducted jointly with General Electric.
Noble CEO Walt Howard toured the site after the collapse and spoke with employees there.
In a news release, he said: “I am pleased with the quick response of the Noble team. They secured the site and accounted for all Noble employees in a manner that is consistent with our stringent safety policy. I am also grateful to the fire department for its swift response.”
Officials said the wind park utilizes General Electric 1.5 megawatt turbines. There are currently more than 12,000 of those turbines across the world and they are the most widely deployed turbines, Noble said.
Altona Town Supervisor Larry Ross was also surprised by the collapse and said he will be updated on the investigation as it progresses.
“They’re going to keep me in the loop so I know what’s going on,” he said from his home Saturday.
“The main thing was that no one was hurt “¦ and now it’s a matter of finding out what happened and putting it back together.”
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