When a turbine collapsed during high wind conditions last Saturday at the Bow Lake Wind Facility just south of the Montreal River, concerned citizens were immediately worried about the potential impact on the environment.
SaultOnline had the opportunity to speak directly with Chief Sayers of Batchewana First Nations, an “at arm’s length partner in the project, last evening and he indicated that he has been assured by their partner BluEarth Renewables that none of the oils used in the turbine have entered any of the surrounding waterways.
One area resident told SaultOnline that they were unable to locate the gearbox, a blade and other parts of the turbine. When a member of the SaultOnline team attempted to get close to the site to obtain photos of the scene, they were met by personnel from the site at a newly erected gate stating that the area wasn’t safe as engineers were currently inspecting and reviewing the damage.
We spoke with William Palmer, an expert in Wind Power, about the issues surrounding turbine location as well as other turbine failures which have been occurring across Ontario’s wind turbine projects.
Palmer stated, “this incident is the 10th wind turbine failure in Ontario that has put the blades (and in this case all three of the 50 metre long blades for the failed turbine) onto the ground… this is the second collapse of a very similar GE wind turbine and the 6th case in Ontario in which GE turbines have put blades on the ground”.
He also noted citizens were right to be concerned about environmental issues. “Your comments about the environmental hazard of oil leaking into the watercourse from turbines (either lubricating or hydraulic oil of which there are several drums worth of oil in most turbines today) is another issue,” said Palmer. “Again, the setbacks to watercourses [are] similar to [those] for human protection – sadly inadequate.”
According to Power Engineering, there can be a significant amount of lubricants used on the metal behemoths which dot the landscape.
“In a typical wind turbine, a large supply of lubricating oil is placed into the gearbox. The lubrication system contains filters for the oil and, depending on the turbine design, lubricant is either pumped through the system or is gravity fed,” according to Power Engineering. “Gearboxes on the generally smaller-sized turbines installed in the mid-1980s hold about 10 gallons of oil or less. Newer, larger machines might hold as much as 60 gallons.”
Although Chief Sayers was assured that no oil had reached any of the surrounding watershed, a full environmental assessment is needed from the Ministry of Environment to fully determine the damage that the failure and collapse of the turbine may have caused.
SaultOnline has reached out to both the Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Energy for comments and will bring the responses to you as they become available.
Stay with us as we continue to bring you more information around this failure and the future of wind turbines going forward.