Wind Turbines Increasingly Collapse Across U.S., Europe

If wind turbines don’t freeze in the cold or potentially cause people who live near them health problems, they’ll collapse and risk crushing you.

On a calm, sunny day last June, Mike Willey was feeding his cattle when he got a call from the local sheriff’s dispatcher. A motorist had reported that one of the huge turbines at a nearby wind farm had collapsed in dramatic fashion. Willey, chief of the volunteer fire department in Ames, 90 miles northwest of Oklahoma City, set out to survey the scene.

The steel tower, which once stood hundreds of feet tall, was buckled in half, and the turbine blades, whose rotation took the machine higher than the Statue of Liberty, were splayed across the wheat field below. The turbine, made by General Electric Co., had been in operation less than a year. “It fell pretty much right on top of itself,” Willey says.

Another GE turbine of the same model collapsed in Colorado a few days later. That wind farm’s owner-operator, NextEra Energy Inc., later attributed it to a blade flaw and said it and GE had taken steps to prevent future mishaps. A spokesperson for GE declined to say what went wrong in both cases in a statement to Bloomberg.

The instances are part of a rash of recent wind turbine malfunctions across the US and Europe, ranging from failures of key components to full collapses.

The article blames the turbines collapses on the rush to install turbine capacity, but no doubt there were other factors that make constructing and maintaining wind farms problematic but also dangerous. Tall towers also means large blades, and when winds blow, especially during storms, the velocities and continuous changing directions of gusts are probably such that the wind turbines cannot handle the stress.

All of this on top of the obvious fact that wind turbines are not reliable sources of energy. Here is one Wisconsin residential area’s experience with a wind turbine collapse that occurred a few days ago.