Turbine Blade Failures Rare But Happen

As NextEra Energy investigates the cause of a broken wind turbine blade at its Enid wind farm, similar incidents may help explain why some of the equipment failures occur.

Although turbine blade failures are considered rare, structural failures like the recent incident at NextEra Energy’s Breckinridge wind farm project have been reported.

  • Earlier in January, a blade failure was reported in Sanilac County, Michigan when a turbine blade was broken off one of the 3-blade turbines.
  • In October of 2016, high winds damaged a turbine near Minco, Oklahoma during overnight storms.
  • In June of 2016, a GE 1.6 megawatt wind turbine in Madison County, Indiana experienced catastrophic failure at the Wildcat Wind Farm, where the facility has suffered at least three other structural failures since going online in December of 2012.
  • In February of 2016, a 160-foot, 7-ton GE 1.6 megawatt blade was destroyed in Huron County, Michigan due to a separation issue.
  • In November of 2013, the Invenergy California Ridge Wind Farm experienced another blade failure with its GE 100-1.6 turbine following prior incidents at the same facility.

GE has identified a ‘spar cap manufacturing anomaly’ as the potential cause for a few of the incidents. GE also discovered a separate ‘isolated supplier manufacturing defect’ for some of the failures. Of course, severe weather conditions may also play a significant role resulting in damage to the turbines. There are several documented instances of wind turbines sustaining direct lightning strikes.

More information about the root of NextEra’s damage will be revealed in the coming months as the company concludes its internal investigation and seeks a replacement blade to repair the broken turbine at the Breckinridge facility near Enid.

(Photo credited to Billy Hefton of The Enid News & Eagle)