An investigation is ongoing into why a wind turbine built to withstand arctic cold and hurricane winds collapsed in a Huron County field last week.
Kristen Otterness, a spokeswoman for Exelon, said security will be on site around the clock in Elkton for the next couple of weeks while the company continues its investigation.
“We don’t have an estimated time for when the full investigation will be complete,” Otterness said in an email. “We know this is important to the community and will share information as it becomes available.”
The 396-foot windmill fell between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m. Feb. 25 in a field in Elkton. The turbine was part of Exelon’s Harvest I wind project.
No one was injured in the collapse. Otterness said setbacks between occupied structures and wind turbines vary, but they generally are more than twice the tip height of the turbine.
After the collapse, Exelon stopped all turbines in the Harvest I wind project for a short time to perform external visual inspections.
Otterness said the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and county emergency management were notified when some oil leaked from the turbine.
“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.”
Deb Elliott, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said Pigeon and Bad Axe, located west and east of Elkton, received 6 to 7 inches of snow that day. Elliott said estimates put the wind speed at 40 to 45 mph, with isolated gusts of 50 mph.
Chante Condit-Pottol, a spokeswoman for the turbine manufacturer, Vestas, said service technicians and experts are working closely with Exelon to determine the cause of the V82-1.65 MW turbine collapse.
Condit-Pottol said Vestas has manufactured other wind turbines in Michigan and the U.S.
“This is the first (Vestas) turbine collapse in the U.S.,” Condit-Pottol said in an email. “Vestas has installed 55,000 turbines globally, and incidents such as this are very rare.”
The Elkton turbine collapse came about a week after a blade broke on a DTE Energy wind turbine Feb. 19 in Sigel Township, also located in Huron County.
The blade bent and wrapped around the nacelle of the turbine, flinging a 12-foot piece of blade about 120 yards from the base.
DTE Energy regional manager Ron Chriss said GE, the manufacturer of the turbine, will be on site this coming week to make repairs and investigate the cause.
“We’ll begin the removal process of the failed blade on Tuesday,” Chriss said. “We should have that complete on Tuesday.”
Chriss said a third party has been hired to lead the investigation and determine the cause of the failure.
“They’ll continue their work in the field once the turbine blade is secure,” Chriss said. “They’ll probably be in the field next Thursday.
“Our goal is to have the cause identified by the 90-day mark.”
The breaks happened in the midst of controversy over the growing wind energy business in the Thumb.
On Tuesday, residents in Argyle and Wheatland townships in Sanilac County will be asked to vote on zoning ordinance changes favorable to wind farms.
In Marion and Bridgehampton townships, residents have gathered signatures for a referendum to slow site plan approvals for an Exelon wind farm.
Exelon has plans to install 68 windmills that each measure about 499 feet in height across three townships: Marion, Bridgehampton, and Custer. According to the company, the project would be able to generate about 150 megawatts of energy – enough to power about 44,000 average homes.
The project has been controversial. Residents have alleged board members have clear conflicts of interest, making ordinance changes favorable to the wind farm while holding leases with Exelon and other wind energy companies.
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