Why Wind Turbines Explode

During the recent storms that hit Scotland a £2 million 328 foot tall wind turbine exploded and rained shrapnel and fire on the surrounding area, all caused by  a 50mph wind.

As usual the so called “Renewable Energy” experts are calling it a freak accident with only a 1% chance of the accident happening.

There are 2 serious problems that afflict wind turbines, blade failure and gearbox failure, the latter failure usually results in the wind turbine catching fire; it is a problem that the renewables industry has long been  aware of:

Renewable energy experts have dismissed an incident where a wind turbine caught fire in gale force winds as a “freak” occurrence.

The 328ft (100m) tall turbine, at Ardrossan Wind Farm, near the A78 in North Ayrshire, was destroyed after it exploded into flames which could be seen “far and wide”.

Charles Anglin, of RenewableUK, the trade and professional body for the UK wind and marine renewables industries, stressed that wind turbines were regularly subjected to “some pretty tough conditions” without problems.

He said: “There’s some pretty freak weather going on and any piece of large power generating equipment can be subject to freak accidents or mechanical faults.

So lets consider the new fear story from the Church of Climatology, Anthropogenic Global Warming is allegedly going to cause more extreme weather events and one of the ways to combat their belief in man made climate change is the use of low carbon methods of electricity generation, so the big question is how will wind turbines be of any use in world which is going to be subject to extreme weather events for the forseeable future?

There are long standing  problems with the gearbox in wind turbines as Renewable Energy World reported:

The gearbox’s reputation for a high failure rate is linked to the extreme engineering challenge that gearbox technology faces in wind applications, and the difficulty in properly assessing the loads – and in particular the non-torsional loads that pass through the gearbox – and how these affect bearings and gears. Some manufacturers have chosen to move to direct drive to reduce the number of moving parts in the wind turbine more exposed to wear. But this has led to wind turbine specific generator designs that are usually more expensive and often come together with a long-term maintenance contract with the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM), which does not necessarily meet the operations and maintenance (O&M) concept of flexibility expected by customers.

Of course, much has been done in the last decade to design and manufacture gearboxes ensuring a high quality, often with associated with over-engineering and increased cost. Many efforts are also being put in to performing proper monitoring and maintenance to detect and prevent any avoidable damage. These efforts have limited gearbox breakdowns in infancy, and sometimes allowed some maintenance activities to be initiated earlier than before, but they have not helped resolving a key cause of the problem: the rotor support concept, and how it distributes loads among the wind turbine structure and the gearbox.

The gearbox in each turbine holds between 200 – 500 gallons of fossil fuel sourced oil and so far no company has come up with a lubricant that can cope:

To date no gear oil has been invented to withstand the pressures produced within these transmissions. Recently, the U.S. government gave Dow-Corning a big grant to work on it. Previously, many others had tried and failed.

The gearbox is barely up to the job, and there is no lubricant currently available that can effectively lubricate the gearbox and wind turbines are supposed to provide secure and reliable energy, the big question is how?

In high winds the turbines are supposed to feather, in the same way a propeller on an aircraft is feathered if there is an engine failure, essentially the blades should cease to rotate.

The shutdown is normally performed by ‘feathering’ the turbine blades so they do not turn. “In general the turbine blades will pitch out in high winds, keeping the turbines in idle mode,” confirms a spokesman for the turbine’s manufacturer, Vestas of Aarhus, Denmark.

Wind turbine fires are far from freak accidents as these video clips show:

in this clip a Danish turbnine suffers a break failure in a high wind

The Scottish wind turbine explosion was not a freak accident, the wind industry know their bird choppers have a major design defect, until the policians we elect put a stop to this stupidity the wind industry will continue to sell a sub standard product, all the while grabbing huge sums of tax payers money in Green taxation and subsidy.

In Britain there are plans to build another 30,000 of these useless symbols of the Great Global Warming Scam at a cost of £2 million per turbine.

You can gues who will be paying for this stupidity.

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About Tory Aardvark

Climate Realist, Conservative and proud NRA member. I don't buy into the Man Made Global Warming Scam, science is never settled. http://toryaardvark.com @ToryAardvark on Twitter ToryAardvark on Facebook

Posted on December 13, 2011, in Anthropogenic Global Warming, Church Of Climatology, Climate Change, Climate Disruption, Climategate, Climategate 2, COP17, Green Lies, Green Taxation, Renewables and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. This is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever read.

    IT’S A FREAKING POWER GENERATOR. It’s not some magic box that makes power out of nothing. Your complaint applies to every single power generating source in existence. This is even more bizar in light of the recient nukular meltdown.

    As to design flaw….. You mean that the other 1,000,000 turbines that the safeties worked correctly one didn’t explode so therefore the couple that the part suffiered failure is suddenly an industry wide design flaw meaning we should scrap the entire thing??? Considering that they are aware of the problem, hence why they made the part that feathers it in the first place and that the part didn’t work well enough something THAT manufacture is fixing.

    I’m amazed how this level of obtuse logic to just wind generators. If you applied it to anything else in life you’d be parilized with fear and hiding under the covers.

  2. I assume you can read, then if you read the entire renewable energy report on gearboxes they know they have a problem, they have not fixed the problem and by your own admission there a lot of wind trubines out there, with the geabox and lubricant problem.

    I could have used many more clips from all around the world to illustrate the problem, I suggest you Google Wind Turbine Fires and YouTube the same search, no shortage of clips.

    What use is a generation system that requires 100% backup, it makes more economc sense to just build one reliabe working system

    Good news about Canada wiping out what little was achieved at Durban 😀

  3. “This is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever read.” Could equally apply to your comment. Tory Ardvark’s complaint DOES NOT apply to every single power generating source in existence, or we would be constantly hearing of conventional power stations exploding or catching fire.

    Nuclear meltdowns have nothing whatsoever to do with gearbox failures, so don’t waste our time with pathetic excuses.

    The fact remains that no sane engineer would consider placing a 2+ MW generator on top of a 100Mtr pole. It is just about the worst place imaginable – being subjected to extremes of temperature & humidity, and making safe access virtually impossible. (Look at the number of workers killed as a result). In any normal situation a machine of this size will be in a purpose designed building, on a very substantial concrete base. It will be protected from the weather, and have much better support bearings, as space won’t be an issue. It also won’t be subjected to the vibrations developed by a 3 bladed propeller. If a conventional steam or gas turbine outfit encounters problems it can be safely shut down in seconds. But if the feathering mechanism on a wind turbine goes wrong in strong winds there is no way a brake will hold it, and a catastrophic over-speed will occur.

    And if this isn’t bad enough thousands of the things are being installed offshore in a highly corrosive salt water environment. Ever heard of the old saying “Water & Electricity don’t mix”???

    Of course there is always the possibility that this is a deliberate ploy to waste our money without us being able to see when they go wrong…

  4. Lol @ spector, the happy troll, I can only assume that you are one of those fat-cats who makes a fortune from tax payers with these things……

    If not, then why don’t YOU pay out £2mill x 30K for them if you think they are so wonderful, then we won’t have to!

  5. Occasional Reader

    Greetings from the other side of the pond. A very interesting piece, and I do like that whole “hoist on their own petard” critique (i.e., these are claimed to be freak accidents that only occur in extreme weather… but these very same people are forecasting lots and lots of extreme weather.)

    With regard to the following: “As usual the so called “Renewable Energy” experts are calling it a freak accident with only a 1% chance of the accident happening.”

    Is that an actual quote, or a generalized paraphrase? If the former, I wonder what they mean by “1%”. Over what time period? Are they saying that “only” 1 out of every 100 wind turbine will suffer a catastrophic failure?! Imagine the nuclear industry making that boast.

  6. MibsXX: A troll is someone who only offers insults and no content. Consider I on average write more than you mibsXX and I think this is the first thread I’ve called anyone stupid who didn’t insult me first. that’s a pretty damn stupid thing to say. You call me a troll because I disagree with you. I guess showing a dissenting opinion is not allowed here. Not really shocking considering how unchallenged the view points are.

    If you can’t stand your view being challenged that maybe it’s not a view worth having.

    As to you tory. What I’m say is Stupid is your continued and rather sad attempt to discredit a perfectly good technology simply because you don’t like global warming. You’ve made it very clear that is your ONLY motivation. Heck pretty soon you’ll be going after the color green.

    I know that stuff happens. I’ve seen the videos too several years ago. What I find amusing is the incredibly high pedestal you set wind mills on (no pun intended). Coal, Nuclear, gas, even hydroelectric all have the same or greater problem with generators. What you fail utterly to consider is the fact that windmills are placed in rural areas, a set distance from houses. So even your massive disaster and terrible design flaw is little more than a dint in the ground below. More people have been hurt from slip and fall injuries in a coal plant than your crazy turbines.

    I’m also pretty sure a car catching fire on a highway caused more actual damage and disruption. Or do you consider cars to have a terrible design flaw as well?

    As to back up power…… The OM costs as well as the lack of fuel costs in wind make it pretty easy to justify occasionally ramping up a gas power plant a little more. The only one here that thinks that wind will be 100% of the grid is you. You also seem to forget that power grids and plants are connected. I highly doubt all the wind across the content stopped blowing at once especially considering that turbines are placed in ideal areas.

    Occasional readers: As to 1 out of every 100….. have you seen 140,000+ windmills blow up???? or are they talking about the precipitating problem that wasn’t able to be fixed here.

    Also I’m pretty sure you just saw the worst disaster that could EVER happen with a windmill. I kinda think an exploding generator several thousand feet from the closest person VS. nuclear contamination and mushroom clouds wiping out entire cities are on different levels of concern. Don’t you?

  7. “Coal, Nuclear, gas, even hydroelectric all have the same or greater problem with generators” – No they don’t – as I’ve said above these are NOT mounted on top of tall pylons exposed to all the weather has to throw at them. In any case they are not driven via gearboxes, but directly, and have vastly superior support and bearings.

    “What you fail utterly to consider is the fact that windmills are placed in rural areas, a set distance from houses.” Not all of them. Increasingly they are being placed near habitation, which is why so many complaints about noise and vibration are made. Pay a visit to Lowestoft (or look at Google Street View here: http://www.ukattraction.com/east-of-england/streetview/lowestoft-wind-turbine.htm) The UK’s tallest turbine is standing next to a gas holder, and within burning debris reach of residential homes. Nearby are 2 turbines at an animal adventure park, where car boot sales are regularly held.

    “I’m also pretty sure a car catching fire on a highway caused more actual damage and disruption” – Only “pretty sure”? In any case fires at ground level can be tackled by the fire brigade. There is nothing they can do when a 100+ Mtr high turbine is burning, and since this frequently happens in strong winds the debris can travel considerable distances.

    “The OM costs as well as the lack of fuel costs in wind make it pretty easy to justify occasionally ramping up a gas power plant a little more.” “Occasionally”?? Download and read this study of wind power in the UK: http://www.jmt.org/assets/pdf/Report_Analysis%20UK%20Wind_SYoung.pdf
    In it you will see that considerable variations occur on an almost daily basis, and as I said above, “Spinning Reserve” uses just as much fuel (and produces as much CO2) as full power operation.

    “I highly doubt all the wind across the continent stopped blowing at once especially considering that turbines are placed in ideal areas.” Once again, read the report and you will see that large area low wind situations DO happen frequently, and not only in winter. An increasing number of turbines are NOT placed in idea areas. They only work well if there are no obstructions nearby.

    “You also seem to forget that power grids and plants are connected.” Existing grids were never designed for unpredictable and highly variable supply sources, particularly when so many of them are well away from the residential & industrial areas that use power. The more wind and solar energy connected the greater likelihood of grid de-stabilization, and even large scale blackouts. And don’t try and suggest using batteries or any other form of storage – the sheer amount of power involved makes this totally impractical – again this is covered in my linked report.

  8. Dow received the grant in july 2009 which is recent, but not yesterday. So maybe (i dont know) some progress has been made in the area of gearbox lubrication in the last couple of years. I’m sure others are working on this problem as well.

  9. My husband does work for a large wind turbine manufacturers and the company that produced the gearboxes had serious troubles in the past years. But now, the company he works for has their own gearbox division online and will produce their own gearboxes so it’s done right instead of having persons that lack the ability/training to perform the task at hand. Just because 1-2 blow up doesn’t make the turbine industry as a whole bad, if so, Toyota would be a horrible car maker and banned across the globe. I see good potential here and would rather live near a windfarm with knowing one could blow up verses living near a nuclear reactor and dying a short time later as a result of defective equipment. As for the salt water comment… These wind turbines are tested at all levels to avoid them breaking. They endure all elements from salt water, rain, snow, sub-zero temps, lightening strikes and so forth in the building process.

  10. Mike Barnard

    There are 165,000 wind turbines producing clean, safe, carbon-neutral, economically viable energy world wide right now. Caithness, an anti-wind group, has collected all of the wind turbine fire incidents it can lay its hands on (including unrelated electrical panel and telephone pole fires on wind farms) and managed to come up with 185. Eliminating the bias brings us to about a 0.001% chance of a wind turbine catching fire in its 20 year life.

    Claiming that this is somehow a problem is hunting for problems to lay at wind energy’s feet. Wind turbine fires are statistically irrelevant.
    http://www.quora.com/Wind-Power/How-significant-was-the-Ardrossan-wind-turbine-fire/answer/Mike-Barnard

  11. It isn’t the accidents that are the problem. It’s the capricious nature of the wind itself. How sure of a weather forecast would you have to be, to walk two miles in your best, most delicate clothes, and not take an umbrella?
    Nevertheless, Global Warming is real, and Humans are responsible. But only nuclear power can deal with it.
    I and some other people suspect that the fossil carbon people promote these useless solar technologies, because they’re no threat to the fossil fuel business!

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