Blade strike may have caused turbine collapse, says engineer

Wind Concerns Ontario, a coalition of community groups, is concerned about oversight of wind turbines following a collapse. An engineer suggests possible malfunction with a blade may have caused the accident.

Wind Concerns Ontario worried about aging wind turbines following collapse

Officials with TerraForm Power continue to investigate the cause of this wind turbine collapse. Environment ministry officials said the company hopes to have the site cleaned up within the week. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

As the investigation into last week's wind turbine collapse in Chatham-Kent continues, some theories into what happened are emerging.

Vern Martin, a mechanical engineer and vice-president of Flowcare Engineering consulting company in Cambridge, Ont., believes a blade may have malfunctioned and struck the column, causing it to buckle.

"That ... has actually been recorded as occurring before in some of these other failures," explained Martin, pointing to a website called Caithness Windfarm Information Forum from the UK, which tracks wind turbine accidents around the world.

Martin said the two main causes of wind turbine failures are fires in the gear box and blade failures. According to the website, a blade failure caused by high winds was recorded in Sault Ste. Marie in January 2008.

There are also documented cases of the blades throwing ice several hundred metres, including one incident in Orangeville in 2009.

Company responsible for turbine operation

In a statement sent to CBC News, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change said officials are waiting for an update on the investigation being carried out by Terraform Power, which set up the turbine in 2009.

"The ministry priority is that turbines are built and operated in a way that protects human health and environment," wrote Gary Wheeler, explaining the company is responsible for ensuring equipment is properly maintained and operated.

Officials have fenced off the area around the broken turbine. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

All 51 turbines owned by Terraform in Chatham-Kent have been shut down while the investigation is ongoing. The

"Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change is taking this incident very seriously," Wheeler added. "We are actively monitoring the situation."

Martin, who is also a member of the group Wind Concerns Ontario, a coalition of community groups opposing wind turbines across the province.

He said it is possible water could have seeped into a crack in one of the blades of the Chatham-Kent turbine, froze and caused the blade to fail.

Warren Howard, an executive member of the Wind Concerns Ontario board, told CBC News the province should give more oversight control to municipalities, which could enforce standards on wind turbines under the Ontario Building Code.

"Any municipality that steps in and tries to do anything, they get sued by the wind company," said Howard. "I think you do need on-the-ground supervision for the construction of these projects and their operation."

Dale Molnar CBC News