BOWMANS - The May 14 fire at the skyscraper-size Turbine 12 at the Locust Ridge I commercial wind farm in Mahanoy Township occurred during routine maintenance, according to a company official.
Jan Johnson, corporate communications director for Iberdrola Renewables in Portland, Ore., which owns the wind farm, said Thursday that Turbine 12 is still shut down. When asked how the fire started, she said, "We're still investigating."
"It damaged the top of the tower. The fire was in the nacelle, the housing up there, the tractor-trailer sized box at the top that holds the generator. We're working with the turbine manufacturer to figure out what happened and then we'll move forward," Paul Copleman, spokesman for Iberdrola Renewables, Wayne, said Thursday.
Manufactured by Gamesa Corp. in Pamplona, Spain, the 2 megawatt, Gamesa G87 turbine has a tower measuring 256 feet and three blades, each 135 feet long. With blades fully extended, it stands 407 feet high. In service since March 2007, it's one of the original 13 turbines that are part of Locust Ridge I, Joseph B. Green, Weston Place, the wind farm project manager, said previously.
The fire occurred at Turbine 12 between 1 and 1:41 p.m. May 14 while Gamesa Corp. workers were conducting a 24-month scheduled maintenance on the turbine, Johnson said.
"When they're doing maintenance, they turn the machines off. The crews climb the towers and do their work. Then they restart them," Johnson said.
The fire occurred in the gear box.
"It's kind of the guts of the machine. The fire caused substantial damage to the nacelle and rotor assembly. No personnel were in the turbine," Johnson said.
"No one was injured and no one was inside the turbine when it happened," Copleman said.
The fire was reported to the Schuylkill County Communications Center at 1:41 p.m. May 14. Firefighters from Mahanoy City responded and were assisted by tankers from Rush, East Union and Butler townships. Firefighters left the scene at 3:46 p.m., according to a supervisor at the center.
Johnson said she's not sure when Turbine 12 will be functioning again.
"A specialist team was being dispatched from Spain to assist with removal of the damaged components. We're not sure when all the parts will be in to do the repairs," she said.
Fires at commercial wind mills are "pretty rare," according to Copleman.
"There are, I think, over 25,000 modern wind turbines in operation just in the U.S. and - to our knowledge in working in the industry on a whole host of safety measures and engineering standards - this is pretty rare," Copleman said.
Lisa Linowes, executive director of New Hampshire-based Industrial Wind Action Group, disagreed. IWAG is a special-interest group formed to counteract what it says is misleading information promulgated by the wind energy industry, Linowes said.
"Fire is a much more common occurrence than the wind industry has indicated. A lot of it is due to poor maintenance on the units. The root cause of fire varies from lightning strikes to mechanical mishaps," Linowes said.