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Turbine collapse causes New York wind farm shut down

US: A wind technician for ENEL North America recently received a surprise when investigating a notification that a turbine's power had cut out at ENEL's 30 MW Fenner wind project in New York.

Enron 1.5 MW turbines in use at this Oregon wind farm
Enron 1.5 MW turbines in use at this Oregon wind farm

"One of our guys responded and in the process of driving around the farm and checking everything out, he got to turbine 18 and discovered it lying on the ground," says Hank Sennott, head of communications for ENEL.

One of the twenty Enron 1.5 MW turbines had collapsed. No one was injured and there are no hints yet to the cause of the collapse.

"We were able to recover the on board computer, which indicated that up until a few seconds before it collapsed, it was operating normally, blade speed was within reason, there didn’t appear to be any blade strike or anything," says Sennott.

Turbine collapses -- while extremely rare -- are often caused when an out of control rotor spins too fast, allowing a bending blade to strike the tower, collapsing the structure.

"From what I understand, it certainly doesn’t seem like that’s what happened. And when you factor in that there wasn’t an issue with blade speed, it certainly is curious," says Sennott.

Engineers and consultants are currently working on finding the root cause and the remainder of the turbines are shut down until more is known.

The Enron turbine, a precursor to today’s GE 1.5 MW turbines, will need to be replaced at a cost between $2--$3 million. When it was built ten years ago, it was the largest wind power project east of the Mississippi river.

"That gives you an indication of how the wind industry has changed," says Sennott, adding that since its construction, it has been a source of pride in the small town.

"Just after the incident we walked into some local diner at an ungodly hour and as soon as they figured out who we were, everybody wanted to talk. The woman who was our waitress said ‘I knew something was wrong. I get up every morning and I look out my window and I can see four of them. When I got up Sunday morning I only saw three of them and thought oh my god.'"

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