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MPP wants other turbine towers inspected

Chatham-Kent-Essex MPP Rick Nicholls wants assurances the other turbine towers that are part of a wind farm in south Raleigh won’t topple over like one did overnight Friday.

Nicholls knows the company is looking into the cause of the collapse, but added, “I want to call on the ownership of those turbines to do a thorough inspection of all the remaining turbines in that wind farm.”

The MPP said he wants to know the results of the investigation, including the company that built the turbine towers, noting, “there could be a flaw in the engineering, which could cause another one to come down.”

Nicholls is also renewing his call for a moratorium to halt constructing industrial wind turbine projects across Ontario until this and other issues, including the impacts on area water wells, are dealt with.

The investigation underway into what caused a turbine tower to collapse in south Chatham-Kent is going to take weeks, according to the owner of the wind farm.

In an email to The Chatham Daily News on Monday, Chad Reed, director of investor relations for TerraForm Power, said a team of experts is onsite investigating the issue that caused a turbine tower to collapse on Sixteenth Line near Drake Road.

“In the meantime, we have secured the immediate area around the turbine and taken the full facility offline as a precaution as we conduct a site inspection,” Reed said. “We are making progress on the inspection and expect to complete it within the coming weeks. As a precaution, the facility will remain offline until the inspection is complete.”

The turbine is part of the 52-turbine Raleigh Wind Energy Centre project that went in service in 2011 under the previous owner Invenergy Wind LLC, before being purchased by TerraForm in late 2015.

Nicholls is also concerned about the several wind turbines, owned by many different companies, that are located near Highway 401 in Chatham-Kent.

Using his golf range finder he has seen instances where some of the turbines are located just over 100 metres from the busy highway.

“If they were to fall down towards the 401 that could be a terrible tragedy,” Nicholls said, adding he is glad no one was injured from this incident.

He knows some people may say he’s fear-mongering, but the MPP said, “No, I’m not. I’m being a realist.”

The turbine collapse has also alarmed members of the Wallaceburg Area Wind Concerns (WAWC) citizen group, which already has fears about 12 the impact of the Enercon E-141 model turbines will have on water wells and noise levels when they are erected as part of the Otter Creek wind project, to be located north of Wallaceburg. The turbines will stand 185.7 metres (462 feet [blade diameter]*) high from base to the top of the turbine blade, which is 30 per cent higher than other turbines erected in Chatham-Kent.

When asked her reaction upon learning of the turbine tower collapse, WAWC spokesperson Violet Towell said: “My first thought was, ‘There’s yet another concern for us.’”

She noted the citizen group is still waiting for definitive answers on noise assessment data and the impact vibration from construction and operation of the Otter Creek wind farm will have on area water wells, since this model of turbine is only a prototype and is not, yet, in operation with any wind farm.

Towell fears what the impact would be if an Enercon model turbine fell, being so close to the urban area of Wallaceburg.

Noting the turbine that toppled is only six years old, she said, “what I do hope is that we get a really thorough and objective understanding of what happened.”

The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, stated in an email to The Daily News on Monday, that it is “taking this incident very seriously.

“We are actively monitoring the situation and will ensure that the company determines the cause of the incident.”

The MOECC also stated it has requested a report from the company about the cause when their assessment is complete.

Noting the remaining 51 turbines have been shut down until the cause of the collapse is known, the ministry added: “We understand that the company is making arrangements to remove the damaged turbine within the next week.”

[According to materials from Boralex, the Enercon E-141 4.2-MW turbines of the Otter Creek project will have a hub height of 129 metres and a blade diameter of 141 metres (vertical sweep area of 3.86 acres), so the total height will be 199.5 metres, or 654.5 feet. —NWW]