14 Jun 2009, 3:55pm
by admin

Highway 58 closed by runaway windmill

By Gretchen Wenner, The Bakersfield Californian, May 3, 2009 [here]

A runaway windmill in Tehachapi closed Highway 58 — a major east-west freeway connecting California’s southern Central Valley to Las Vegas, Nevada and Arizona — for most of the day Sunday.

As of 9 PM, the highway remained closed between Tehachapi and Mojave. Officials had no estimate as to when it might reopen.

Wind turbines are subject to catastrophic failure when their brakes fail, allowing blades to spin uncontrollably. The resulting vibrations can cause them to explode, spewing propeller blades and debris hundreds of yards, as a YouTube video of an incident in Denmark last year shows.

Large turbines, like some in Tehachapi’s wind farm, can boast wingspans as wide as a jumbo jet.

The faulty unit was built in the 1980s and is much smaller than giant ones made today, said Meghan Dotter, spokeswoman for AES Corporation, a global power company with North American offices in Virginia, which owns the 90-kilowatt windmill.

The turbine’s brakes failed when winds exceeded 50 mph, Dotter said in an e-mail.

The California Highway Patrol shut Highway 58 “in an abundance of caution,” she wrote, “because the wind turbine was visible from the road.” … [more]



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