With more than 300,000 turbines now installed worldwide, catastrophic failures and collapses are rare, but not unheard of
HALIFAX—There are now two investigations underway into the collapse of an 80-metre wind turbine in Cape Breton, believed to be the first catastrophic failure of its kind in Canada.
Montreal-based Enercon Canada Inc. confirmed Aug. 24 that workers were ordered to leave the tower near the southwestern tip of Cape Breton Island before it buckled and toppled into a tangled heap last week.
Spokeswoman Karine Asselin said it remains unclear what happened when Enercon employees were replacing a component as part of regular maintenance at the Point Tupper wind farm near Port Hawkesbury, N.S.
“All of our employees were evacuated and no one got injured,” she said in an interview. “And then the turbine collapsed.”
Along with a company technical team, Nova Scotia’s Labour Department has sent investigators to the site.
The Canadian Wind Energy Association issued a statement saying it was not aware of a similar failure among the more than 6,000 wind turbines in Canada.
In the broader wind energy industry though, the collapse is not wholly unique. By the end of 2015, there were more than 300,000 wind turbines scattered around the world, according to the Global Energy Wind Council, and though failures are extremely rare, there are numerous examples.
“Collapses do occasionally happen, but they’re very rare when you consider how many of them are out there,” said Devin McCarthy, spokesman for the Canadian Electricity Association, which represents 37 of the country’s largest electricity companies.
A 120-metre Vestas turbine, for example, fell in a field in Elkton, Mich., during a winter storm earlier this year. At the time, a spokesman for Vestas said the collapse was a first in the United States for the company.
Another recent collapse occurred January 2015 in North Ireland when a 100-metre turbine fell over on a mountainside, according to the Daily Telegraph. No one was injured at the Screggagh wind farm near in County Tyrone, but debris was scattered across the site.