The wind turbine model on which a 40m rotor blade snapped near Wonthaggi on the Mornington Peninsula this week has a history of failure in the US.
Wind farm operator REpower is investigating a lightning strike as a cause of the break, which threw large pieces of debris.
The blades attached to the six 66m-high towers 3km from the Victorian coastal township of Wonthaggi can reach speeds of more than 200km/h at the tips.
The Suzlon MM82 turbines were designed to operate in areas of high wind speeds.
Neighbours said the turbine blade had broken up in a mild breeze. Infill material was scattered widely and the fibreglass covering left flapping in the wind.
They called for the farm, with generating capacity of 12mW, to be switched off while the cause of the failure was investigated.
REpower said the farm continued to operate but public beach access tracks had been closed until the cause of the break-up was known.
“Public safety is our top priority,” a spokesperson said.
Neighbouring nursery owner Ken Townsend said inspection of the wreckage showed no signs of burning which he said raised doubts that a lightning strike had been responsible.
Mr Townsend had been taking shelter from the rain in a shed on his nursery when the rotor blade broke around midday on Wednesday. “I heard a big, big bang and thought it was thunder,” Mr Townsend said.
“When I got outside I saw it hanging.”
The incident appears to be similar to blade failures involving MM82 turbines in the US which led to a sharp downgrade of Suzlon’s share price in 2008, three years after the Wonthaggi plant was commissioned.
However, a spokesperson for REpower, now a subsidiary of Suzlon, said the Wonthaggi turbines were not fitted with Suzlon blades.
The spokesperson said the blades used at Wonthaggi were manufactured in Denmark by the world’s leading blade maker, LM Wind Power Group.
“We have had no problems with blades before,” the spokesperson said.
In a statement, REpower said maintenance crews were inspecting the damage.
“It is possible that lightning caused the damage, however this is not yet confirmed.”
The company said safety systems automatically shut down the turbine to avoid further damage. No one was injured.
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