A wind turbine collapsed early Tuesday morning at a site about four miles south of Diller.
The collapsed turbine was one of the 44 General Electric turbines that generate 1.7 megawatts at the Steele Flats Wind Energy Center. The turbine came crashing to the ground a little before 5 a.m. on Tuesday. No one was injured in the collapse.
Steele Flats is operated by Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources and began commercial operations in October of 2013.
On Tuesday morning, the command center in NextEra’s Florida corporate headquarters received an alert that a wind turbine had gone offline, according to Bryan Garner, manager of communications at NextEra.
The Steele Flats site manager went to the location to check out the problem and discovered that the 400-foot-tall turbine had collapsed into the cornfield it used to tower above. The company secured the area and then notified the land owners from whom the company leases land, Garner said.
That’s about all they know for sure at the moment, he said, but they’ll be trying to sort out what happened over the coming days. The next steps include working with GE, the makers of the turbine, to analyze what went wrong, Garner said.
“These are very rare occurrences,” he said. “So we want to work with the manufacturer and find out what caused this to fail.”
At this point, Garner said, the company didn’t want to speculate what might have gone wrong, but they don’t believe weather was a factor.
“The wind conditions were pretty much in line with what you’d expect for a good, windy day in Nebraska and very much what a wind farm can accommodate,” he said.
Garner couldn’t give an estimate on what the turbine would cost to replace, but said that Steele Flats Wind Energy Center cost $138 million to build. The site generates about 75 megawatts of energy in total, or enough to power an estimate 19,000 homes. The 44 turbines are spread over an area of about 10,500 acres in both Gage and Jefferson counties.
It began operating commercially in 2013, selling energy to the Nebraska Public Power District and was officially dedicated about three years ago on June 19, 2014 by then-governor Dave Heineman.
Garner said the company expects to rebuild the turbine after the investigation and cleanup are complete.