May 3, 2011
North Dakota

Incidents at Wilton wind farm concern some residents

Brian Howell, KFYR-TV News, 2 May 2011

Those who live by a wind farm near Wilton are concerned about safety. A blade on a turbine broke in heavy wind over the weekend.

Residents say a string of recent incidents show something needs to be done, but state leaders say they are safe.

A similar incident occurred earlier this year near Minot and a few months ago, the entire nose of a turbine fell to the ground near Rugby.

The fiberglass on this wind turbine blade near Wilton peeled away like a banana in the middle, and residents who live near the wind farm are concerned.

Wilton resident James Theurer said: “I would be worried to send my kids up anywhere around on there. I mean, even up onto the roads. The towers are close enough to the roads that if they`re up there doing something that something could happen, in the winter, the ice (could) fly off and hit one of them or, you know, even for their safety out here in the yard.”

Some say a bigger buffer zone is needed between wind farms and homes. They say the broken blade is proof that turbine failures occur and the risks are too great to place these structures only a third of a mile from homes.

But public service commissioners say neighbors are safe, because the farthest the blades would fly if they`re spinning as fast as they could, would be about 200 feet, which they say is well short of the required buffer zone.

“We go to great care to make sure that the distance between a turbine and an occupied dwelling is safe under the worst case scenario. I think Burleigh County has certainly done the same thing with their ordinance,” said Public Service Commissioner Kevin Cramer.

Residents say natural disasters, like tornadoes, are always on their minds.

Cramer said: “You can`t guard against every eventuality. If something like a tornado was to come through, of course, and hit any infrastructure, with the velocity and the speed with which it throws things around, it doesn`t matter if it`s a barn or a grain elevator, or a wind turbine, there are just some things you can`t guard against.”

Residents say living next to a wind farm is not pleasant.

“I wouldn`t buy another piece of property like this, this close to the towers,” said Theurer.

Cramer says the exact cause of the Wilton blade`s break is unknown, but he points out that a Grand Forks company manufactures the blades, and he says there have been similar problems in other states with the same blades.

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