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Noble cleared of blame in collapse of turbines

ALTONA – The New York State Public Service Commission has concluded its investigation into the 2009 turbine collapse at the Noble Altona Windpark, finding no fault with the company.

On March 6, 2009, power unexpectedly went out at the Noble Altona Windpark. Two units, Turbines 42 and 59, did not move into safe mode, as designed.

The report from the Public Service Commission, released Thursday, said the rotor and blades of Turbine 42 spun at about three times the operational design speed, hitting the tower structure, which ultimately collapsed.

Oil in the nacelle of the turbine caught fire, and the unit was heavily damaged.

The blades on Turbine 59 also spun freely, damaging one of the composite blades. Noble personnel restored power to that turbine and put it in safe mode before it sustained any additional damage, the report said.

The turbine collapses sparked outcry from wind-farm opponents – who had said all along the towering structures were a danger – and raised fears among people who lived near the structures.

Nobel officials were tight-lipped at the time, releasing very little information about what had happened.

This week’s decision to close the investigation was based on independent reviews of Noble Environmental Power’s records, management protocols, operations and maintenance procedures and site conditions, the Public Service Commission said.

The commission concluded that the Noble facilities have been inspected and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations.

The commission also said Noble has shown it is in compliance with appropriate specifications and procedures for inspection, maintenance, public safety and site security.

“The commission is encouraged by the steps that Noble has taken to implement robust site control and internal reporting and scheduling procedures subsequent to the Altona turbine failure investigation,” Chairman Garry Brown said in a news release.

“The commission is mindful that site security and public safety require ongoing diligence and adaptation of procedures as technology advances, and the commission expects Noble to make certain that its electric plant and facilities are secure and that public safety outside of the turbine setback areas is reasonably assured.”

In response to the collapse, the manufacturer of the turbine “has implemented appropriate product and process improvements to preclude a repetition of the circumstances that led to the incident,” the Public Service Commission said.