August 6, 2012

Fire in the sky: lightning strike sparks Buffalo Ridge turbine blaze

Brookings Register | 6 August, 2012

Lightning claimed a “victim” Wednesday in rural Lake Benton, hitting and setting ablaze the blades of a Buffalo Ridge wind turbine.

Deputy Chad Meester of the Lincoln County (Minnesota) Sheriff’s Department happened to be in the area – Minnesota County Highway 1 and 190th Street – when he witnessed the lightning strike at approximately 7:47 p.m.

The incident occurred during a lightning storm that was accompanied by heavy rainfall.

Darren DeJong photo

Meester said the lightning hit one of the blades of the turbine, sending part of it to the ground. The fire continued to burn, both at the base and at the top of the 175-foot-tall tower. Ultimately, all three blades were destroyed.

The Elkton Fire Department was called to the scene, but only as a standby in case the tower transformer caught fire or exploded. The chief said there was no attempt to extinguish the fire. A representative of the wind tower owner, AES Wind Generation of Lake Benton, was also on hand to monitor the situation.

The sheriff’s office was unable to provide an estimate of the damage to the structure. An AES company spokesman said, however, that the wind towers can cost as much as $1 million; at least some of the Lake Benton tower can be salvaged.

By chance, two off-duty officers from the Brookings County Sheriff’s Office, Deputy Darren DeJong and Investigator Darin Haider, were in the Lake Benton area at the time, and DeJong was able to photograph the burning turbine.

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