Point Tupper wind turbine collapse remains a mystery; Manufacturer won’t discuss factors behind collapse
SYDNEY, N.S, – An official with the company that manufactured a wind turbine that collapsed in Point Tupper in August says its investigation found nothing to indicate it was due to an equipment design or a technical issue but won’t say what the factors behind the failure were.
The Point Tupper wind farm has an 80-metre ENERCON turbine model manufactured in 2010.
“We did the investigation and nothing leads us to believe that the incident was the result of any equipment design or technical issue,” Eva Lotta Schmidt, business development manager with ENERCON Canada said Friday. “Since the incident, we have had a thorough investigation which has been completed and we are confident that we have identified the contributing factors and the continuous improvement opportunities and at this point in time we are in the process of implementing them.”
Lotta Schmidt said “a combination of factors” led to the collapse, but despite being asked several times to specify what those factors were she declined to elaborate.
“The fact that it’s not a design or a technical issue allows us to be confident that it’s not something that can happen at other sites. There’s not a specific factor that I would like to name.”
That turbine is currently being removed from the wind farm site and is being replaced.
The Point Tupper collapse occurred “during a scheduled component exchange that was outside of the regular operations or installation activities,” Lotta Schmidt said. The incident triggered an evacuation of the site. Workers were told to leave the tower before it buckled and fell.
“Luckily no one got hurt and damage was limited to the turbine,” she said.
ENERCON said in a statement at the time of the Point Tupper collapse that it has installed almost 1,000 wind turbines in seven provinces in the past 15 years, and it was the first time one of them had collapsed. The 10 other E-82 turbines at the Point Tupper site were not affected.
In a followup email, Lotta Schmidt wrote that the health and safety of employees, customers, contractors and the public is a priority for ENERCON and the incident was taken seriously by the company.
At the time of the Point Tupper collapse, the Canadian Wind Energy Association, which represents the industry, issued a statement saying it was not aware of a similar failure among the more than 6,000 wind turbines in Canada.
Coincidentally, on Wednesday another turbine in Cape Breton failed. In that incident in Grand Etang, the main tower snapped in two after being pounded by strong southeast winds, known as les suêtes, that hammer the Cheticamp area with gusts of up to 200 km/h. That turbine was manufactured by another company than those at the Point Tupper wind farm and that turbine had been in service since 2002.
This week, Energy Minister Michel Samson said setback provisions are in place to protect the public and neighbouring landowners should the turbines fail. He said the department is looking forward to seeing the results of what exactly caused the most recent incident. Samson said the department has not yet received a final report on the Point Tupper collapse. Both the province and municipalities through legislation have control to regulate wind turbines. There are setback requirements for the turbines from residential areas that are in excess of the length or height of the structures.
NSPI owns and operates the Grand Etang turbine, which was one of the first two wind power developments in the province. NSPI is also a minority partner in the Point Tupper wind farm with majority owner Renewable Energy Services Ltd.
There are about 220 wind turbines at 30 locations across the province. Wind represents about 14 per cent of electricity on the Nova Scotia energy grid.
ENERCON Canada is a subsidiary of ENERCON GmbH in Germany.
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