OLIVER TOWNSHIP – Exelon Wind Generation says it has sent materials to an independent lab for analysis from the site where a 400-foot wind turbine fell.
Crews continue to inspect the site near Berne and Gagetown roads where the 485,000-pound, $1.5 million turbine fell on a farm field on Feb. 25. The Vestas V82 turbine was one of 2,500 installed in the U.S. and 7,000 worldwide and only the second failure ever, according to Jeff Smith, the county’s building and zoning director.
“I guess we have to wait to see if they’re going to abandon the site or replace it, we don’t know yet,” Oliver Township Supervisor Larry Krohn said.
“Probably within the next week or two we should be able to get a report from them.”
Exelon says it is looking into the turbine’s pitch system, which controls how the blades move back and forth.
“The full investigation will take at least a few months,” Kristen Otterness of Exelon said in an email.
Smith, who visited the site with township officials days after the incident, said Exelon hired third party investigators to join its own team and crews from Denmark-based Vestas. The township also had an engineer from Spicer Group come out, Krohn said.
Exelon says it “believes the event at Harvest 1 was an isolated, turbine-specific event and not a larger fleet-wide issue.”
There are “no concerns, not yet,” for the potential for falls, breaks or other malfunctions at nearby turbines, according to Krohn. There are 52 turbines in Oliver and 79 in bordering Chandler Township. Winsor and McKinley townships to the east and northeast have 47.
Brion Dickens chairs Oliver Township’s planning commission, which reviews developers’ plans to build in the township and decides permits.
“I was appointed by Oliver Township to take the lead on that investigation,” Dickens told county commissioners Tuesday, as they interviewed him for a position on the county’s planning commission.
Dickens did not return a call Wednesday seeking comment.
Earlier during the interview, Commissioner Rich Swartzendruber asked whether Dickens had a “pro-wind bias.” Dickens said he “fully appreciate(s) the fact that yes, I have a pro-wind bias.”
“If you wanted to interview my supervisor, you would see that I really have not pulled any punches. I am going after them and they will be held accountable,” Dickens said, alluding to the fallen turbine in Oliver Township. “I’m not biased in that regard.”
The township did ask if a certain part of other turbines would need replacement, similar to a recall on a vehicle, according to Krohn.
“So far I know they’ve cleaned up what they can,” Krohn said. “They’re waiting for the frost laws (to lift) so they can get in there.”
Exelon says it hasn’t made a decision on whether the turbine will be replaced. If the company decides to build a new one, it would have to go through the entire process again of site plan review, Krohn said, and eventually special use permit consideration.
The turbine also spilled 25 gallons of greases, oil and coolant, according to the Department of Environmental Quality, which said the spill was contained. There is “no imminent drinking water or environmental health threat,” a DEQ official later told the Tribune. According to Exelon, the turbine held about 400 gallons of oil. (Full story here: http://bit.ly/1TVboJD.)
Turbine manufacturer Vestas did not return a message seeking comment.
The fall marked the second time a turbine had failed during a six-day stretch in February.
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).
DTE Energy owns the turbine. Per Huron County’s ordinance, the utility will have to fix the turbine or remove it from that location. Smith says DTE will replace the broken blade and resume operation once the turbine is re-commissioned.
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