OOPS – 187-ton windmill topples in Madison County

Explain to me, just one more time, why we should be concerned about set-back?

From the Utica Observer-Dispatch:

Posted Dec 27, 2009 @ 07:41 PM
Last update Dec 27, 2009 @ 11:39 PM

A wind turbine weighing nearly 190 tons collapsed early Sunday morning in rural Madison County , leaving experts stumped as to what could have brought down the towering structure.

The windmill, located on Buyea Road in Fenner, northeast of Cazenovia and several miles south of Canastota, fell into a cornfield at about 4 a.m., shutting down the 19 other turbines in the wind farm operated by Enel North America, officials said.

No one was injured.

It was the first time the company had seen one of its turbines topple.

“This is just not an everyday occurrence,” Enel North America spokesman Hank Sennott said. “I’d rather wait until we have a chance to investigate rather than speculating as to what could have happened.”

However, Sennott said he doesn’t believe sabotage occurred. He also said he doesn’t believe the force of the wind could have knocked over the turbine, which soared more than 200 feet above the town’s rolling countryside. But he would not answer questions about what possibilities the company is considering for the cause of the collapse.

Buyea Road resident David Kalenak said the crumpled remains of the wind turbine attracted hundreds of onlookers throughout the day on the rural road, which usually sees just one or two cars each hour.

“I think a couple of my neighbors are a little nervous,” said Kalenak, who didn’t hear the crash. “This one was in a field, but others are in the line of homes.”

The turbine was one of 20 erected at Fenner Wind Farm in 2001. The farm’s turbines produce enough electricity to serve at least 10,000 homes, Sennott said.

Wind turbines have become an increasingly common feature of the Central New York landscape. In Lewis and Madison counties, there are five established projects, most along U.S. Route 20 or in the Lowville area.

There are no wind farms in Oneida or Herkimer counties, but three projects are pending in Herkimer County, according to data from New York Independent System Operator, a nonprofit organization that operates New York’s electrical grid. One plan for the Herkimer County town of Litchfield has raised the ire of residents near Sauquoit in Oneida County; they say turbines would mar the landscape and pose possible risks to home values and health.

Fenner town Supervisor Russell Cary he was shocked by the incident, but didn’t think it should spark cause for concern.

“I think it’s a freak thing,” said Cary, who noted he fielded calls from concerned residents throughout the day.

“This isn’t something that normally happens,” he said. “It’s been an exciting day.”

Sennott said the company is not concerned about the possibility of another turbine collapsing. Instead, he said, the company’s efforts will be directed toward securing the site of the crash and discovering what caused it.

Safety fencing was erected around the site of the crash Sunday night, and company workers planned to stand guard to ensure no one would be able to remove debris from the site. The company plans to hire security officers in the coming days to protect the site.

Replacing the turbine would likely cost between $2 million and $3 million, but it’s not likely a replacement turbine would be installed immediately, Sennott said.

“It’s not like we have an extra one of these things sitting in the backyard,” Sennott said.

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