What could have happened to this wind turbine?
By amk, 26/04/2022

What could have happened to this wind turbine?

What could have happened to this wind turbine to cause its blades to be peeled like a vulgar banana? If speculation is rife, the answer is quite simple. Located in Texas, the turbine was damaged by a tornado. Damage ultimately limited in view of the power of the phenomenon.

Contrary to certain rumors relayed on social networks, this wind turbine did not "melt" under the heat wave. The turbine, located in Wadsworth in southeast Texas, found itself in bad shape when a tornado struck on June 14. The impressive images of the damaged craft were posted by the NWS Houston Weather Service on Twitter as well as on Reddit by a wind technician.

Hard to resist a tornado

They show a wind turbine that looks like a wilted flower, whose blades have been literally peeled off by the phenomenon. Composed of a mixture of wood and resin, they obviously did not resist the violent and disorderly winds which can blow up to 500 km/h in the center of a tornado.

Pieces of blades also reportedly hit a transformer on the ground, causing a fire. Conversely, the mast and the steel nacelle as well as the concrete foundations seem perfectly intact. The turbine should thus be able to be repaired without any particular difficulty. The three other wind turbines located nearby were obviously spared, betraying the very localized morphology of a tornado.

Qu’a-t-il bien pu arriver à cette éolienne ?

A fire is said to have been caused by the fall of pieces of blades on a transformer. / Photo: jeremyRockit – Reddit

How does a wind turbine react in the event of a storm?

It should be noted that wind turbines are generally capable of operating up to a wind speed of 90 km/h. They have a braking and orientation system for the blades limiting wind resistance to stop their rotation in the event of a storm. In areas subject to hurricane risk, some two-bladed wind turbines can even be lying on the ground during the alert. When stopped, wind turbines can therefore withstand severe weather.

Read also: Plastic bottles recycled in wind turbine blades

A recent model installed off Croisic (Loire-Atlantique) also emerged unscathed from storm Alex in September 2020. Despite a gust recorded at 141 km / h and up to 9 meters in swell height, the machine suffered no damage. Although publicized and massively relayed on social networks, accidents are ultimately rare. They are generally due to a failure of the braking systems more than to a weakness of the structure.

In addition, wind turbines have a higher resilience to natural disasters than certain modes of electricity production. The entire Japanese wind farm, for example, was not affected by the 2011 tsunami, when many fossil and nuclear power plants had to interrupt production. Their simple design also allows for quick and easy repairs.

Read also: The bladeless wind turbine does not convince Read also: A few tips for surviving the heat wave this summer … without an air conditioner