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‘Here at DTE, we have a lot of questions as well’

HURON COUNTY – DTE Energy officials gave more details about the wind turbine blade that broke in Chandler Township last week at a Huron County Commissioners board meeting Tuesday.

“I’m sure a lot of people have a lot of questions,” DTE regional manager Ron Chriss said. “Here at DTE, we have a lot of questions as well.”

The 164-foot blade broke off in three pieces close to 11 p.m. on Oct. 7 according to Chriss. The turbine, called CO-84, is on North Farver Road and close to 315 feet high.

CO-84 had three blades – each weighing 6 tons. DTE officials said most of the weight of the blades is located close its hub, near the base of the turbine.

“It would be all speculative now to try to determine what was the cause,” Chriss said.

The blade that broke was going through a testing period but hadn’t been fully commissioned, according to DTE. CO-84 was turning when it broke into the three pieces. Two parts of the blade fell right underneath the turbine, while a third piece traveled 80 feet and landed on the access road to the turbine.

“As a result of the failure we have shut down Echo,” Chriss said at the meeting. He said that meant that no power production or construction of unfinished turbines at the park would be completed until a reason for the failure is discovered.

“That must be pretty costly to shut down that whole field,” Chairman Clarke Elftman said.

“Yes, it is,” Chriss said. “But we have to until we feel more comfortable. We have to have some sort of preliminary analysis.”

He estimated that the findings could take two months. DTE will look into the production history of all the blades to see if they came from the same production plant. Chriss said the blades are produced in Brazil and General Electric is the manufacturer of the turbines.

“GE and DTE personnel were at the site Saturday and Sunday investigating,” Chriss said.

The wind turbine is the second DTE-owned and GE-made turbine to fail in Huron County in the past year. In March, a turbine in Rubicon Township had a blade made in Brazil fail because of uneven heating temperatures in the oven when it was being cured.

Five other blades that were produced at the same plant were replaced because they were been made with the same uneven production, according to Chriss.

The DTE officials said that they looked back at the heating records of all the blades in the Echo Wind Park and that it appears that they were correctly produced.

“I wonder if it doesn’t go back to the raw materials that are used,” commissioner Steve Vaughn said. “It’s could be like making cookies and not having the right amount of baking powder.”

“That’s part of the root cause analysis” Chriss said. “That’s something I can’t answer. I can tell you there’s a lot of eyes on this.”

“There’s a lot of concern … this just can’t happen.”

Vaughn said that he was happy the way that DTE has handled the situation.

“Everything was shut down, just like the last one was. All there boots were on the ground making sure everyone was safe, and that’s the main thing,” Vaughn said.