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Rethinking wind tower safety

Another wind tower has collapsed, this one in the Madison County Wind Farm in the town of Fenner. ...Wind farm advocates, especially in Cape Vincent, Clayton and Hammond, have blasted those urging tighter control of wind farm development for what they say is unreasonable setbacks from wind farms for other structures and for infrastructure such as roads and power lines. Yet, experience is beginning to show that in terms of safety, it is likely far better to err on the side of caution.

Another wind tower has collapsed, this one in the Madison County Wind Farm in the town of Fenner. The nine-year-old tower collapsed Saturday night, apparently when power was lost to the tower. This is the second such collapse in upstate New York this year; in March, a tower collapsed in Altona, Franklin County, when it, too, lost power. Clearly, this issue is one that needs further study and one that should be giving pause to towns in the north country that are rushing to get permissive laws on the books for commercial wind farm development.

These two collapses are far from the only ones, however. In Denmark in 2008, a tower collapsed when the braking system failed and the blades spun out of control, eventually shattering the nacelle and sending debris well beyond the collapse range of one and a half times the tower height. In Oldenburg, Germany, a tower collapsed in November 2006 when a rotor shattered, bringing the entire tower down; large chunks of blade debris landed more than 200 meters - 660 feet - from the tower.

Wind farm advocates, especially in Cape Vincent, Clayton and Hammond, have blasted those urging tighter control of wind farm development for what they say is unreasonable setbacks from... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Another wind tower has collapsed, this one in the Madison County Wind Farm in the town of Fenner. The nine-year-old tower collapsed Saturday night, apparently when power was lost to the tower. This is the second such collapse in upstate New York this year; in March, a tower collapsed in Altona, Franklin County, when it, too, lost power. Clearly, this issue is one that needs further study and one that should be giving pause to towns in the north country that are rushing to get permissive laws on the books for commercial wind farm development.

These two collapses are far from the only ones, however. In Denmark in 2008, a tower collapsed when the braking system failed and the blades spun out of control, eventually shattering the nacelle and sending debris well beyond the collapse range of one and a half times the tower height. In Oldenburg, Germany, a tower collapsed in November 2006 when a rotor shattered, bringing the entire tower down; large chunks of blade debris landed more than 200 meters - 660 feet - from the tower.

Wind farm advocates, especially in Cape Vincent, Clayton and Hammond, have blasted those urging tighter control of wind farm development for what they say is unreasonable setbacks from wind farms for other structures and for infrastructure such as roads and power lines. Yet, experience is beginning to show that in terms of safety, it is likely far better to err on the side of caution.

The Altona tower collapsed across an access road. Fortunately, no one was on that road at the time. And there was some good fortune in that the nacelle and the rotor bases landed in heavy woods, reducing the debris field.

The loss of power issue is one that should be of special concern to planning boards trying to develop wind farm regulations. When the power goes out, it appears, some of the built-in safeguards for windmills can be lost. As a result, it would not be unwise for municipalities to require backup power at windmill sites to make sure this doesn't happen here.

And any town that thinks a simple setback of minimal distance is adequate, consider this: if there is blade shear in a densely constructed area of windmills, the flying blades could hit other towers and result in more than one tower failure from a single incident. It is the domino theory of tower collapse.

Take heed, folks in Clayton and Cape Vincent and Hammond. The potential danger of tower failure in terms of human life and ruined infrastructure is far more real than the wind farm developers are telling you. This truly could be a case, in terms of setbacks at least, of less is far less - and completely inadequate.


Source: http://www.watertowndailyti...

DEC 28 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/23854-rethinking-wind-tower-safety
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