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Huge wind farm turbine snaps near Kyoto

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Hmmm. I wonder if this is an extremely rare occurance or if it's been known to happen from time to time in other countries with lots of windfarms.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The massive Dutch-made turbine, which sat atop a Japanese-made steel column,

Ha! I know which country's maker the Japanese media will be talking about most.

-5 ( +4 / -9 )

The massive Dutch-made turbine, which sat atop a Japanese-made steel column, was part of a wind farm in mountains near Kyoto, and it had been installed in 2001 with an expected life of at least 17 years.

This might be a resonance issue. If the wind turbine vibrates at the structural frequency of the steel column, the steel column will succumb to fatigue. It lasted 12 years so it's not a total loss.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Wow, so they are basically saying there is no control to check whether the turbine is working properly? That's insane, I mean it could start burning (happened before) and cause a major forest fire during dry season!

2 ( +4 / -2 )

This is the second one. There was one that fell over a few years ago up in Kashima, Ibaraki.

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Bad maintenance procedures? Better a wind turbine or two than a nuclear power plant, methinks.

5 ( +9 / -4 )

Recall them all!!

-7 ( +0 / -7 )

Do I smell lack of maintainence here?

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Heck, no one even noticed when it happened. Gives you a pretty good idea of how significant an energy contributor it was to the area.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

japanese wind blows differently from Japanese winds and also is longer, making it harder for the turbine to digest it.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Well, let's see... It was meant to last 17 years and lasted about 12, so if they suspect it succumbed to steel fatigue that would mean the steel structure was faulty to begin with, unless there was some extreme situation we don't know about. Can't pass the buck on this one.

cabadaje: "Heck, no one even noticed when it happened. Gives you a pretty good idea of how significant an energy contributor it was to the area."

You mean how we all noticed the 'massive winter blackouts' threatened over the lack of running NPPs? :)

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Actually, 50 m isn't really high for a wind turbine. I mean, honestly, 120 m is the current limit. And they (German researchers) are experimenting with a wooden construction basis which can reach almost 200 m in height. Furthermore, 12 years is quite an old age in a branch of technology evolving this fast as wind turbines are. Modern machines can be expected to be far more resilient.

When the steel column snaps this is similar to some failure of some exterior part of any other large industrial facility. No one got hurt and the cost of the accident is - well the cost of a new column and a new wind turbine. They might actually even have an insurance to cover the cost of the accident. And they still made a decent profit out of the turbine in these 12 years. Nevertheless, why do they mention the Dutch turbine before the Japanese steel column?

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tajMar. 15, 2013 - 04:49PM JST

Hmmm. I wonder if this is an extremely rare occurance or if it's been known to happen from time to time in other countries with lots of windfarms.

Check youtube, plenty of instances of turbine failure, including explosive dis-assembly. Unlike many other forms of energy production, you really don't have much control over the stresses put on the device during normal operations. With proper design and location, you can minimize the effects,

smithinjapanMar. 15, 2013 - 07:09PM JST

It was meant to last 17 years and lasted about 12, so if they suspect it succumbed to steel fatigue that would mean the steel structure was faulty to begin with, unless there was some extreme situation we don't know about.

Or it could be that the engineers that designed it were lied to about the wind conditions in the area. The turbine could have been an improper fit for the location and that would certainly decrease the life expectancy. It would certainly be a good idea to remeasure everything to make sure it's not systemic .

Johannes WeberMar. 15, 2013 - 07:55PM JST

When the steel column snaps this is similar to some failure of some exterior part of any other large industrial facility

How many facilities have a 50m tall freestanding tube that collapses? I can assure you that 50m freestanding on anything but a wind turbine would not see this type of failure unless it was made of steel drums stacked on top of each other.

Furthermore, 12 years is quite an old age in a branch of technology evolving this fast as wind turbines are.

The last evolution in windmills was a half century ago. Sure the motors and head assembly change, as do blade profiles, but the columns are pretty much unchanged from the 60s and 70s. Not to mention that they have been around since the 1880s, so if that isn't slow enough change than you might as well as watch molasses in the winter.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

@smithin

You mean how we all noticed the 'massive winter blackouts' threatened over the lack of running NPPs? :)

You didn't notice?

What do you think the rate increase was all about?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

a case study in resonance of steel structures perhaps?

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Which is not to say the technology couldn't actually be improved. It's just that, well...it just isn't worth the investment. Wind power has one of the higher efficiency potentials of renewable energies (I think it is around 60% potential), but the problem is twofold: 1) You lose a lot of it in conversion to mechanical energy because, 2) wind doesn't have a lot of mass to it, so it is particularly bad at moving heavy things. You run into diminishing returns really quick.

Also, they don't have great environmental records.

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cabadajeMar. 15, 2013 - 08:56PM JST

You mean how we all noticed the 'massive winter blackouts' threatened over the lack of running NPPs? :)

You didn't notice?

Most people don't seem to understand that "setsuden" literally means planned blackout. Sure it's not a blackout caused by the grid failing, but a very localized form of blackout is still a blackout.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

@Johannes Weber

And they still made a decent profit out of the turbine in these 12 years.

Did they?

I don't know anything about the situation, and that might well be true, but it seems like a rather random assumption to make.

Nevertheless, why do they mention the Dutch turbine before the Japanese steel column?

Alphabetical? Because people tend to remember the last thing they hear better, and JT didn't want to offend the Dutch?

Does there have to be a reason?

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Dutch made but where was it assembled?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Trivia: Fire, though still rare, is more common than collapse--a lot of heat is built up inside. The blades are longer than a semi. The tips move just under the speed of sound.

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IowanMar. 15, 2013 - 09:15PM JST

Trivia: Fire, though still rare, is more common than collapse

Define rare. If you mean rare compared to other energy sources, averaged over TWh produced, far from rare actually. Hell, they have higher incidence of fire than gas turbines, and those work by making fire!

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

The failure of this power source necessitated the evacuation of how many thousands of people? How many square kilometres does the no-go zone cover, and for how many hundred years will it be a no-go zone? How many head of cattle/family pets had to be abandoned to starve? How many thyroid cancers in children is it likely to cause? How far away has the water supply been compromised?

no one even noticed when it happened is not a bad thing.

2 ( +8 / -6 )

May be Japanese Steel at the time of manufacture was not up to scratch possibly had too much copper in it, from using scrap metal. or some body used too hard of steel and this has cracked from movement and has failed . Then one would have asked why arnt these investments ever checked by non destructive methods for cracking which is quite easy. this preventive action would have saved this problem. Some metals work harden causing them to become brittle and suspectable to cracking. Some one in the system is not ensuring correct maintenance scheduals are being done on a regular basis possibly a budgeting thing .These things happen when people stop being aware of their responsibilities just like the atomic energy problem some one somwhere is responsible and should be held accountable for poor maintenance schedules and ensuring the work has indeed been carried out .. If the steel which this is made from is the problem one would hope it has not been used structialy in highrise buildings. or their reacters. This can be checked by non destructive testing also.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

We had one burst into flames a couple of winters ago because it couldn't cope with the wind O.o

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

oh dear. what with the government and power companies already vying for nuclear energy, i hope this doesn't push people into thinking renewable energy sources aren't worth the investment...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Hmmm, some misconceptions and misinformation here it seems. First, although wind does not have a lot of mass, when applied over a large surface area that small mass is amplified. Yes, rolling friction of the bearings and gearbox must be overcome, as does the resistance of the generator to turning (due to magnetic forces), but the concept does work, that much has been proven. Further, the driving force, wind, is a completely free commodity, it's not taxable, so the only cost is in capital equipment and transmission lines. Once those are put in place then the amount of wind used to create energy is somewhat less important since one mustn't pay more if more wind is used to create that energy, if the operating cost calculations and ROI are proper. As for wind being a reliable energy source, I'm sure there are a lot of farmers around the world, particularly in the Midwest and Western parts of the US who will attest to it. In fact, the cultivation and settling of those huge tracts of land would not have been possible without harnessing wind energy, since it was a matter of life or death to be able to harness wind to pump irrigation water from wells out to cattle and to crops in the days before internal combustion engines and electricity. Second, who is this "Dutch" wind turbine manufacturer? I'm not aware of any who are currently in business. Do they mean Danish, since I often hear people intermingle Dutch and Danish like they do Swiss and Swedish because they are uneducated as to the difference. As far as the collapse of towers, it may have nothing to do with poor steel quality, but rather something like fatigue from unexpected vortex shedding, which has been known to bring down smokestacks. That's why you see what looks like fences running up the side of steel smokestacks any more. Could this technology be useful on wind turbine towers, perhaps, or perhaps it would cause turbulence issues with the airflow across the rotor. As for fires, although those incidences are higher, the total number repaired since 2002 is 184 (according to AREPA, which represents turbine repair and remanufacturing companies), hardly staggering given the number of turbines installed, which was around 199,000 in 2011 (0.09%) This is not all that staggering, when you consider the voltages and amperages that the equipment is handling, handling high voltages and currents is inherently dangerous. Further, fire suppression systems are quickly catching up technology-wise, so that if a control module does overheat and arc in a nacelle, the fire can quickly be extinguished and either way, is still contained inside a metal nacelle structure which is isolated from structures and plants/fuel as well in most applications. COULD a wind turbine catch fire, and emit sparks which start a grass or forest fire, of course, anything is statistically possible, no matter how well you plan for a mishap. But here in the west, I am FAR FAR more worried about the constant stream of fires started by idiots throwing cigarettes out the window of their car, or starting campfires when the underbrush is bone dry, or folks using fire pits on their back patios than I am of a turbine nacelle EVER bursting into flames.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I wonder who paid for the turbine in the first place . North America they are subsidized by massive government (tax payer) loans and rarely if ever in their lifespan return the investment. In Ontario Canada they are finding because of the location and the less than 30 % active return, the grid system cost and now human and animal health issues there needs to be way more effort made to find out if they are worth it.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Asybot, please define massive government subsidies! Subsidies for the wind industry still pale by far in comparison to the tax breaks given to traditional energy sectors like gas and coal...

0 ( +2 / -2 )

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/03/16/national/kyoto-wind-farm-turbine-falls-after-pylon-snaps/ (see pic)

This is a relatively small wind turbine and it was the pylon that snapped (not the turbine or blades).

1 ( +1 / -0 )

On the upside, when a wind turbine snaps, we don't have to evacuate the prefecture...

0 ( +2 / -2 )

@cleo

The failure of this power source necessitated the evacuation of how many thousands of people? How many square kilometres does the no-go zone cover, and for how many hundred years will it be a no-go zone? How many head of cattle/family pets had to be abandoned to starve? How many thyroid cancers in children is it likely to cause? How far away has the water supply been compromised?

Well, I'm not going to pretend that a nuclear disaster isn't as dangerous as a wind turbine disaster, and we've already gone over how exaggerated or emotionally over-dramatic some of the above are, so I won't go into that all over again...

I will, however, point out that comparing the damage a single failed turbine causes compared to that of a nuclear plant is somewhat disingenuous. A single reactor can produce in excess of 500 MW. To get close to that, well, you need a lot more turbines, and they need to be a heck of a lot bigger and a heck of a lot more expensive than this one. Let's look at Meadow Lake Wind Farm, which produces about 500 MW, and yet still falls into one of the top ten largest wind farms in the world.

In this wind farm, 121 modern turbines are spread over 26,000 acres. That's around a 16km x 10km square. Most of this area is farmland, out of necessity really, because these devices generate a lot of noise. So much noise that the EPA has actually had to do a study to determine whether the noise would have long-term detrimental effects of humans (it certainly increases the stress levels of the local wildlife, for those who are interested in that). And we aren't talking occasionally either. As long as these things are moving, they are making noise.

It is, of course, difficult to compare apples and oranges. After all, there is a possibility that a single reactor plant can fail and we lose land, but there is a certainty that a wind farm will require that land to begin with, so even though we haven't actually lost the land, we still had to take it out of our available resources list and assign it as "used". While the area would not be labelled a "no-go" zone, the actual risk and threat of working in that area would not be all that different from working in the no-go zones of a nuclear disaster. As far as pets and other animals go, well, having the animals living in that area long term would actually cause them more stress due to the noise.

Are wind farms safer than nuclear plants? Absolutely. But that safety comes with a corresponding price, and that price is paid is not just higher economically, it is also higher in terms of land, resources, flexibility, and environmental impact. And the price must be paid up front. A reactor, well, the factors we are talking about here only become issues in the event of a failure, whereas they are always continuous issues in the case of a wind farm.

Don't think wind energy is the beloved solution of all: http://stopthesethings.com/ It has as many haters as any other energy resource, the only difference being that most of these people have actually experienced the reason for their opinion personally, as opposed to it being a political cause because they just don't like the idea of it.

no one even noticed when it happened is not a bad thing.

Not exactly a great marketing line. When you make an investment in something, you generally want it to actually return on that investment. If things are humming along merrily, and then you go check out your investment and find it wasn't actually turned on, you have to wonder what you spent that money on.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@Greg Yount

Hmmm, some misconceptions and misinformation here it seems.

Yeah, that happens. Let's keep an eye out for it, shall we?

First, although wind does not have a lot of mass, when applied over a large surface area that small mass is amplified.

Well, sure. Obviously. That is, after all, the foundational concept of wind energy to begin with, all the way back to when it occurred to someone to tie a bed-sheet to their boat.

Yes, rolling friction of the bearings and gearbox must be overcome, as does the resistance of the generator to turning (due to magnetic forces), but the concept does work, that much has been proven.

I don't believe anyone has said otherwise. The question has never been whether it works or not. The question is about the efficiency and economic viability of it.

Further, the driving force, wind, is a completely free commodity, it's not taxable, so the only cost is in capital equipment and transmission lines.

It's also uncontrolled and unreliable as a power source. You are, quite literally, at the mercy of the elements.

Once those are put in place then the amount of wind used to create energy is somewhat less important since one mustn't pay more if more wind is used to create that energy, if the operating cost calculations and ROI are proper.

Yes, well, while that is theoretically true, over-production has never really been a major problem for wind farms. The problem has always been a lack of sufficient wind, not too much of it.

As for wind being a reliable energy source, I'm sure there are a lot of farmers around the world, particularly in the Midwest and Western parts of the US who will attest to it.

As long as you're sure. Wouldn't want to spread any misconceptions or misdirection around.

In fact, the cultivation and settling of those huge tracts of land would not have been possible without harnessing wind energy, since it was a matter of life or death to be able to harness wind to pump irrigation water from wells out to cattle and to crops in the days before internal combustion engines and electricity.

Which is an excellent example of the niche wind power can fill. As opposed to, say, as a substitute or replacement for industry level quantities of production.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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