The California Highway Patrol re-opened Hwy. 58 at 11 p.m. Sunday night, May 3, following a meeting between representatives of the owners of an out-of-control wind turbine and the CHP commander.
“We had commander Doug Rich come out last night [to meet with the owners],” said CHP spokesman Officer Ed Smith Monday morning. “They assessed the safety for the highway. We determined we should re-open the route.”
Smith said that apparently the phenomenon of a turbine spinning unchecked is not an uncommon occurrance, but in this case it was so close to the highway there was concern for motorist safety.
It was not clear exactly how dangerous the turbine could be if it flew apart, or how far the pieces would go, but the mission of the CHP, Smith said, is to err on the side of safety.
Original reports were that chunks could fly as far as a mile. The owners apparently were not in agreement with that assessment.
The CHP closed Hwy. 58 between Hwy. 14 and the Monolith-Tehachapi Summit exit at 1:20 p.m. Sunday after learning that the turbine was spinning out of control and had already thrown off its cowling.
The turbine is located 1,400 feet from the Hyw. 58 at the intersection of Sand Canyon Road.
The CHP initially closed Sand Canyon to entry and exit by residents but “We ended up escorting people,” Smith said.
The turbine belongs to the AES company and is one of the older derrick models that was built 20 years ago by Vestas.
The faulty turbine and its white blades frequently were spinning so fast they could not be seen .
Experts say the only way to stop such a runaway turbine is to wait for the wind to die down.
Several weeks ago, an AES worker suffered injuries in an accident atop a wind turbine.
Kern County Fire Department carried out a rescue operation that involved lowering him down the outside of a turbine.
A wind energy expert not connected to the company said such turbine failures – which could be caused by bad brakes or a gear box failure – are seen less and less today as the technology improves.
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