Nova Scotia

Cape Breton wind turbine was regularly inspected before collapse

A turbine that collapsed in Cape Breton last week had undergone extensive safety checks throughout its lifespan and was equipped with safety features to prevent equipment failure.

Inspections every 3 to 6 months done by manufacturer, with extensive checks every 4 years

All the workers were able to evacuate the area before the 80-metre tower buckled at the midway point and collapsed. (CBC)

There's a good reason wind turbines don't usually collapse.

Turbines, like the one that failed catastrophically in Cape Breton last week, get regular inspections and maintenance to keep them at peak performance.

Any issue with mechanical efficiency — or worse, downtime — results in a loss of profit.

The 20-storey-tall Enercon E-82 turbine that now lies bent over in a wooded area of Nova Scotia was inspected every three to six months by workers with the company. 

Depending on the turbine's maintenance cycle, the devices are inspected visually, tested for strong electrical connections or refilled with lubricants.

Collapse happened during component swap

Enercon officials would not confirm the length or specific details about its maintenance contract with Renewable Energy Services Limited (RESL), the main shareholder of the Point Tupper Wind Farm.

Enercon officials emphasize the collapse happened during a scheduled component exchange, not during construction, installation or regular operations.

While workers were replacing the component, an incident occurred, the company said. The workers quickly evacuated the site before the turbine's tower buckled and sent the blades plummeting to the ground.

Some residents of Port Hawkesbury say they saw the turbine spinning unusually quickly before it fell.

The Canadian Wind Energy Association says this collapse was the first catastrophic failure of its kind in Canada.

Government does not inspect turbines

The turbine's inspections and maintenance are done almost entirely without government oversight. 

I don't think there's anyone who would want to put a turbine up with fear that it's going to fall.- Michel Samson, Nova Scotia's Minister of Energy 

There is a rigorous approval process to receive provincial and federal authorization to build a turbine, including annual wildlife surveys and extensive community consultation. 

But once a turbine is up, the government is relatively hands off.

"I can assure you that for the companies that are putting up these turbines, these are a significant investment," said Michel Samson, Nova Scotia's Minister of Energy.

The 11 turbines built at the Point Tupper Wind Farm reportedly cost at least $55 million to install.

"I don't think there's anyone who would want to put a turbine up with fear that it's going to fall," Samson said.

Cause of collapse still not known 

The government says it is still working closely with Enercon to determine the cause of the collapse.

Wednesday afternoon, flat-bed trucks were seen entering the wind farm to retrieve shipping containers used to transport equipment and tools to the site. 

There is no timeline for when the investigation will be complete, said Karine Asselin, a spokesperson for Enercon said Thursday. 

About the Author

Brett Ruskin


Brett Ruskin is a reporter and videojournalist covering everything from local breaking news to national issues. He's based in Halifax.

With files from The Canadian Press