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Nome wind turbine collapses; exact cause still unknown

A wind turbine in Nome fell down over the weekend, though it remains unclear exactly why.

Bering Straits Native Corp. said it is investigating the “wind turbine foundation failure” that occurred Saturday at the Banner Wind Project outside of Nome. The corporation co-owns the project with the Sitnasuak Native Corp. and sells electricity to the local utility.

Bering Straits spokesperson Matt Ganley said in an email that the initial investigation indicates that a portion of the foundation “failed” at one of the 16 operating 50-kilowatt turbines located at the site, though he did not elaborate as to why.

John Handeland, utility manager for the Nome Joint Utilities System, said the turbine was totally destroyed in the collapse.

Handeland said the utility purchased 1.2 megawatts of energy last year from the wind project, or about 5 percent of the city’s overall load. Diesel-powered generators produce most of the utility’s power.

The turbine that collapsed is a 50-kilowatt turbine, only producing a small amount of electricity. Handeland said it would not affect power production in Nome.

“Percentage-wise it’s just a drop in the bucket,” he said.

Ganley wrote in an email that Bering Straits was “disappointed” in the equipment failure. He said the other turbines would be thoroughly inspected to correct any existing or potential issues.