OCOTILLO – The Sept. 16 collapse of a 300-foot windmill near here has led to the shutdown of the entire wind farm that supplies 265 megawatts of electricity to a San Diego utility, it has been learned.
The long controversial Ocotillo Wind, which began operations in 2012 and has 112 windmills, is among the signature projects of Imperial County’s effort to become a renewable energy Mecca amid a state push to increase such output.
“All turbines at the facility have been shut down pending completion of the root cause analysis. Siemens Gamesa is the turbine manufacturer and is leading the investigation into the root cause,” Siemens spokesperson Myca Welch stated in an email Thursday afternoon.
Welch did not immediately provide information on when the facility was taken offline or a timeline on when it might resume operation.
Siemens is the manufacturer of the windmills. The farm is operated by Pattern Energy, a U.S.-based international renewable energy provider.
A photo from the site provided to this newspaper showed the windmill’s stem bent roughly in half and its blades scattered around it. The wind farm is west of the unincorporated town of Ocotillo about 30 miles west of El Centro. It faced strong opposition among town residents from the start and some opponents continually criticize it as defective and inefficient.
While the farm is in Imperial County, it is on land owned by the federal Bureau of Land Management, which has regulatory oversight of it.
A BLM spokesperson said the agency did not immediately have a comment.
Concerning the county’s role, “A timeline has not been provided into when the full investigation will be complete. The county will continue to be in communications with Pattern Energy to ensure incidents like this can possibly be prevented to protect the residents and environment of Imperial County,” public information officer Gilbert Rebollar stated in a Thursday email.
However, such an incident is a matter of concern, county Board of Supervisors Chairman Michael Kelley said.
“We want to make sure if it continues (operation) it’s safe. I hope the rest of the turbines and stems are operating properly. If they’re not, something needs to be done,” he said.
The electricity generated by the windmills is exclusively sold to San Diego Gas & Electric, the Pattern website states.
SDG&E did not immediately provide comment.
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