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Fallen turbine’s oil spill shouldn’t be a problem  

Credit:  By Chris Aldridge, Tribune Staff Writer | Huron Daily Tribune | March 2, 2016 | www.michigansthumb.com ~~

OLIVER TOWNSHIP – The 25 gallons of greases, oil and coolant that spilled onto a farm field after a wind turbine collapsed won’t pose health threats, a Department of Environmental Quality official says.

Last week, a nearly 400-foot, 485,000-pound turbine fell at a farm near Berne and Gagetown roads in Section 6, the northwest corner of Oliver Township (http://bit.ly/1LZRfjJ). It’s part of Exelon Wind Generation’s 32-turbine Harvest Wind 1 Farm, the first utility-scale wind project built in Michigan, which began operation in 2008.

“It gouged out a nice, big hole, about eight feet wide and three or four feet across,” Robin Oeming, a DEQ senior environmental quality analyst, said Tuesday.

“The fluids should be out of the ground already.”

Oeming says DEQ got a call from Exelon Wind Generation on Thursday, Feb. 25, after the turbine fell. The leaked oils are pretty thick, he said, but the spill is contained.

“It’s not going anywhere,” he said. “It can’t get at the (frozen) soil; there’s too much debris.”

According to Oeming, the nearest surface water body is a ditch a couple hundred yards away.

“I don’t see any imminent drinking water or environmental health threat from this,” he said.

In his 30 years with the agency, Oeming said he’s not aware of the DEQ responding to an incident involving a wind turbine.

It was also a first for the wind developer.

Chicago-headquartered Exelon has 47 wind projects across the country in 10 states. The company has not had an incident like this happen, Communications Manager Kristen Otterness said last week. There were no injuries to employees or the public, Otterness said.

According to Exelon, the $1.5 million turbine that fell held about 400 gallons of oil.

Exelon also contacted Huron County 911/Emergency Services. Director Randy Miller says from what he gathered, there was no way the oil could get into the watershed.

“Like any other engineering disaster, it’s going to take three months, maybe longer, to get the detailed information they need,” Miller said.

Exelon says it is still investigating the cause of the fall.

“This specific turbine model is designed to withstand Arctic weather conditions, and has successfully withstood hurricanes,” Otterness said in an email. “We believe this is an isolated, turbine-specific event and not a larger fleetwide issue.

“A decision hasn’t been made yet on if the turbine will be replaced.”

The company expects a “fact-finding” portion of the investigation to be completed in about a week, she said.

“We don’t have an estimated time for when the full investigation will be complete,” she said. “We know this is important to the community and will share information as it becomes available. We are communicating with township officials. We know it’s important to communicate with our stakeholders when events like this occur.”

Otterness says safety is Exelon’s top priority and the company will have security on site “around the clock for the next couple weeks.”

After the turbine fell, Otterness says Exelon stopped all others in the Harvest 1 project to “perform external visual inspections of all the turbines.” Turbines were powered on after the inspections.

Hours after the fall, Oliver Township Supervisor Larry Krohn described a nearby resident’s account of the situation.

“He just heard a noise and it sounded like a tree cracking or something and a little rumble of thunder when it hit the ground,” Krohn said.

Last week’s fall marks the second incident in less than a week in which a wind turbine has failed.

Crews are still investigating how a 160-foot, 7-ton wind turbine blade broke in eastern Huron County on Feb. 19, leaving it dangling like a shoelace and torqued around the structure (http://bit.ly/1Lg43TJ). According to DTE, the turbine automatically shut down after the incident. The utility expects an “extended outage” for the turbine during repairs and while “extensive top to bottom inspections of the entire turbine are conducted.”

“Like any other engineering disaster, it’s going to take three months, maybe longer, to get the detailed information they need,” Miller said.

Exelon says it is still investigating the cause of the fall.

“This specific turbine model is designed to withstand Arctic weather conditions, and has successfully withstood hurricanes,” Otterness said in an email. “We believe this is an isolated, turbine-specific event and not a larger fleetwide issue.

“A decision hasn’t been made yet on if the turbine will be replaced.”

The company expects a “fact-finding” portion of the investigation to be completed in about a week, she said.

“We don’t have an estimated time for when the full investigation will be complete,” she said. “We know this is important to the community and will share information as it becomes available. We are communicating with township officials. We know it’s important to communicate with our stakeholders when events like this occur.”

Otterness says safety is Exelon’s top priority and the company will have security on site “around the clock for the next couple weeks.”

After the turbine fell, Otterness says Exelon stopped all others in the Harvest 1 project to “perform external visual inspections of all the turbines.” Turbines were powered on after the inspections.

Hours after the fall, Oliver Township Supervisor Larry Krohn described a nearby resident’s account of the situation.

“He just heard a noise and it sounded like a tree cracking or something and a little rumble of thunder when it hit the ground,” Krohn said.

Last week’s fall marks the second incident in less than a week in which a wind turbine has failed.

Crews are still investigating how a 160-foot, 7-ton wind turbine blade broke in eastern Huron County on Feb. 19, leaving it dangling like a shoelace and torqued around the structure (http://bit.ly/1Lg43TJ). According to DTE, the turbine automatically shut down after the incident. The utility expects an “extended outage” for the turbine during repairs and while “extensive top to bottom inspections of the entire turbine are conducted.”

Source:  By Chris Aldridge, Tribune Staff Writer | Huron Daily Tribune | March 2, 2016 | www.michigansthumb.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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