Wind Farm Online After Rotor Crash

Wednesday, March 23, 2011 @ 05:03 PM gHale

A wind energy project in north-central North Dakota resumed generating power, one week after the rotor and three giant blades on one of its towers came crashing to the ground.

The wind farm has 71 turbines perched atop steel towers just north of Rugby, ND, about 150 miles northeast of Bismarck and is capable of generating up to 149 megawatts of electricity.

Inspectors judged the farm to be safe to resume operation, said Jan Johnson, a spokeswoman for Iberdrola Renewables Inc. in Portland, Ore.

Johnson said they are still investigating the cause of the incident. In a letter to North Dakota’s Public Service Commission, Sarah Emery, an Iberdrola senior permitting manager, said the tower suffered a “rotor assembly failure.”

No one suffered an injury. The Public Service Commission, which approved the wind project’s site plan, expects a briefing on the incident, Commissioner Brian Kalk said.

The wind turbine’s manufacturer, Suzlon Wind Energy Corp., described the mishap as “an isolated incident.”

“Suzlon has complete confidence in the safe operation of our fleet of 7,600 wind turbines worldwide,” the company’s statement said.

Iberdrola’s parent company is in Valencia, Spain. Suzlon Wind Energy Corp. is a unit of Suzlon Energy Ltd., based in India.

North Dakota had more than 1,400 megawatts of wind generating capacity at the end of last year, which ranked it ninth among states, according to the American Wind Energy Association, a trade group. The association said North Dakota has enough wind energy to power 430,000 homes. The entire population of North Dakota is 646, 844, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and there are 289,677 homes and apartments in the state.

The Iberdrola wind farm sells its energy to Missouri River Energy Services, based in Sioux Falls, S.D., which supplies electricity to 60 municipal utilities in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa.