Massive Wind Turbine Collapse Still A Mystery

By Michele Berger

What makes a massive wind turbine crumple like a flimsy piece of tin? That’s precisely what an investigation by one supplier will aim to determine, after a 260-foot-tall turbine in Northern Ireland collapsed without explanation Friday, Jan. 2, 2015.

One of the eight turbines at the Screggagh Wind Farm near Fintona, Ireland, “buckled near the base,” The Guardian reported, slamming its four large arms into the ground and scattering debris across a nearby mountainside. No injuries were reported.

Weather at the time wasn’t an issue, with winds at just 25 miles per hour.

Locals noted hearing loud, unusual sounds — including one thunderous boom — before the tower came down, according to area newspaper, The Ulster Herald. One person compared the noise to a bomb exploding; others said they heard metal on metal. The BBC also noted that witnesses claimed the blades were spinning “out of control” before the turbine went haywire.

Incidents like this are relatively rare; something similar happened just one other time in the United Kingdom, The Guardian noted. “People in the industry are describing it as a highly unusual event, not least because there was no storm, no high winds at the time the turbine came down,” said reporter Peter Cassidy.

While Nordex UK Ltd, the company that supplied the turbine, completes its investigation into the incident, the farm’s seven other turbines will remain off. According to The Telegraph, Nordex turbines have been involved in two other, separate episodes, one in which the company was fined nearly $40,000 for safety breaches and another in which its turbine caught fire.

Doreen Walker, director of the wind farm, said officials were “working closely” with Nordex, The Irish Times reported. “A further statement will be made once the investigation has been completed and the reasons for the failure confirmed.”

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