PUC Wants More Details About Turbine Collapse

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The New York State Public Service Commission (NYPSC) is seeking further details from Noble Environmental Power LLC about a wind turbine collapse that occurred in March 2009 at the Noble Altona Windpark.

Noble must show why it should not be required to demonstrate, through a third-party certification or otherwise, that its wind farms in New York are providing safe wholesale electric service, and that all quality assurance and quality control program measures and manufacturer recommendations for inspection and maintenance of turbines, towers and related facilities have been implemented for the facilities in New York.

The NYPSC's decision stems from an investigation into the collapse of a wind turbine at the 65 turbine wind farm in Clinton County, N.Y. The investigation concluded that the physical collapse of one turbine and the failure of another was the result of certain wiring being incorrectly installed.

The incorrect wiring prevented the turbines from going into an automatic shut-down mode due to a loss of electric power, which occurred the day of the collapse when contractors changed settings on a bank of relays, according to the NYPSC.

During the course of the investigation, Noble was unable to satisfactorily explain why the questionable wiring would have been present in two of its turbines, according to the PUC.

The investigation also revealed a number of instances where best practices may not have been followed in terms of monitoring operations and where compliance with quality measures and manufacturer recommendations for the inspection and maintenance of turbines may not have been fully implemented.

‘We have received the commission's order and the report, are currently reviewing both documents, and will reply to the NYPSC as requested,’ says a spokesperson for Noble. ‘In the meantime and as always, the continued safety of our employees and neighbors is of utmost importance to us. All of the turbines in Noble's North American fleet are operated by our GE-trained and certified wind technicians, in accordance with stringent, industry-standard operating and safety practices.’

As a result of the Altona incident, a diagnostic verification program has been created by the turbine manufacturer to detect the presence of the aberrant turbine wiring that had interfered with the safe-mode operation.

In addition to specific requirements being imposed on Noble, the NYPSC will be advising those proposing regulated wind farms of its plan to include a certificate condition requiring such companies to demonstrate – prior to facility operation – through a third-party certification or otherwise, that the emergency control system will safely shut down the wind turbine upon a loss of power and that the control system meets the manufacturer specifications for the facility.

The NYPSC also expects to include a certificate condition requiring compliance with manufacturer recommendations for inspection and maintenance of turbines, towers and related equipment.

For more information, visit dps.state.ny.us

SOURCES: New York State Public Service Commission, Noble Environmental Power LLC

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