May 19, 2013

Ocotillo Wells: Blade breaks off wind-powered turbine, prompts investigation

By City News Service, on May 18, 2013 |

A 173-foot-long blade broke off a wind turbine and fell to the ground at a 315-megawatt wind farm that supplies electricity near El Centro, it was reported today.

The blade was found near its base Thursday under one of the 112 wind-powered generating turbines at the Ocotillo Wind project near the San Diego-Imperial county line, the Imperial Valley Press reported.

No injuries were reported, according to the El Centro newspaper. But worldwide use of that model of turbine has been suspended while the mishap is investigated by its manufacturer, Siemens.

The blade was 173 feet long, 10News reported. The accident was about 100 miles east of San Diego, near Ocotillo Wells.

The Ocotillo Wind project began commercial operations in December, transmitting energy to San Diego Gas & Electric Co. customers via the firm’s Sunrise Powerlink, the new 117-mile transmission line between Imperial and San Diego counties.

In April, a blade broke from a similar Siemens turbine at an Iowa wind energy facility, the Imperial Valley Press reported.

Siemens Energy said in a statement the cause of the malfunction was unknown and officials were working to determine if the two incidents were related. Siemens would globally curtail use of turbines with that type of blade until they are considered safe, according to the Imperial Valley Press.

Matt Dallas, a spokesman for Pattern Energy, also told the El Centro newspaper that the turbines would not return to operation until they had been evaluated and were deemed safe.

It was not immediately known if that model of Siemens wind-powered generators were in use in the Coachella Valley area.

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