These things cost upwards of $5M and can stand as tall as 400 feet. It’s amazing that they’ve caught the failure on video, clearly there is a wind turbine problem to be solved as this failure is number 36…
The traditional failure mode of wind turbines is to come apart in high winds. Since the power in the wind is related to velocity of the air cubed the stresses increase very rapidly in storms. A turbine that is not turning does not generate lift so it will have low stresses even in high wind. The standard approach is to apply brakes and slow or stop the turbine when the wind gets too strong. The brakes obviously failed on the turbine in this spectacular movie with the expected consequences.
Wind turbines should certainly be made well so they are safe, but I don’t think this is a generally a big problem. You said this was number 36, but I know of only 3 recent failures of Vestas turbines. Vestas claims to have installed more than 30,000 wind turbines so even if the number of failures was 36 it would be a pretty low failure rate. In this case the authorities made sure that people were kept away from the turbine and I don’t believe anyone was injured. A failure of this type is pretty obvious visually and probably makes a lot of noise so I doubt that many people will be caught unawares.
We recently had an ship hit the Bay Bridge and spill fuel oil into San Francisco Bay with disastrous consequences. Every machine is subject to failure with bigger or smaller consequences. Compare some shredded fiberglass in a field to Chernobyl, the threat of terrorists with nuclear weapons, the long term pitfalls of nuclear waste or the mercury poisoning from coal power plants and I think wind comes out looking pretty green.
Bruce, great comment. I’m certainly not implying that we should cease wind power. It’s clear, any machine will fail over time. However, according to industry sources, the failure rate is increasing (not with any particular manufacturer) but due to scale. As the size of the towers and blades are increasing, so are engineering problems. Wind is a great resource and it should continue to be harvested.