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Wind turbine collapses in southeastern Nebraska, cause still under investigation

The cause of a collapse that reduced a 262-foot wind turbine to a twisted heap of white metal in southeastern Nebraska is still under investigation, but the farmer on whose land the turbine once stood will continue to be paid as if it were still generating electricity.

“We will pay for any crop damage due to the turbine going down and lease payments will not be impacted,” said Bryan Garner, a spokesman for NextEra Energy, which owns the turbine that collapsed early Tuesday.

Employees of Florida-based NextEra were alerted that a single turbine at the company’s Steele Flats Wind Energy Center in Gage and Jefferson Counties went offline at about 4:45 a.m. Tuesday, Garner said.

No one was injured as a result of the collapse of the turbine, which is taller than, for instance, the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Omaha.

NextEra is working with GE, the manufacturer of the 44 turbines at Steele Flats, to identify what went wrong.

Generally speaking, turbine failures are “extremely rare,” said Evan Vaughan, a spokesman for the American Wind Energy Association, a national trade group representing the industry. And instances in which the turbine and tower upon which it is perched are even more rare, Vaughan said.

Neither the trade group nor NextEra would provide specific figures related to turbine failures or tower collapses.

The farmer on whose land the turbine sits didn’t return calls for comment.