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Wind Turbine Accidents and Mishaps

Wind Turbine Accidents

Today, more than 150,000 wind turbines are installed worldwide, some of which have been operating for over 20 years. Despite this, there have been very few deaths or injuries occurring to residents or walkers, although there is a risk, as with any other human activity.

 Life can be put at risk mostly in the case where wind farm developers decide to cut some corners in construction. 

Reducing the size of crane pad and roadways may put installation engineers at risk, for example. Accidents may also happen when the installation process takes place on a windy day. This generally occurs in order to reduce costs. Extra danger may appear from the practice of lifting blades that have already been installed to the wind turbine tub.

As one will notice, the majority of the dangers associated with wind turbines do not affect individuals on a daily basis, but are mostly related to the installation and maintenance process. Besides these hazards, several cases where the housing of the turbines caught fire have been documented. This led in some cases to the total collapse of several wind turbines and it is a reoccurring problem of the renewable energy industry.

There is a growing trend associated with wind turbine accidents, specifically because the more units are installed, the more accidents occur. Experts suggest that the chance of a wind turbine accident happening is only a 1-percent when taking into account the total number of existing units.

Fatal accidents as a result of human contact with a wind machine have been recorded from as early as 1842, when a man died entangled in the sack hoist of his own windmill in England. Similar accounts have been documented in France and other countries that employ wind energy.

It is estimated that since the development of renewable energy in the 1970s, approximately 20 people died in accidents involving the wind turbines, some of them in the U.S., others worldwide. As stated before, the overwhelming majority of accidents had to do with the installation and maintenance of the turbines.

The minimum distances that project leaders must respect from turbines to homes mitigate the risk to homeowners. Indeed, distances of at least 500 meters from dwellings ensure the safety of residents at all times. These “no-go” areas for the public ensure the safety of pedestrians and vehicles with regards to the hazards that may occur in the proximity of the turbines.

In addition, the turbines need to meet strict safety standards and are inspected at least once a year by specialists. In extreme conditions (storms, thunder), the rotor is automatically switched off and the blades feathered. The machines are equipped with a mandatory system of lightning and a lightning rod end of vanes. De-icing systems are also installed on the blades to melt the snow accumulated on the blades, thereby avoiding throwing off ice projectiles.