Strong wind destroys Searsburg wind turbine
By LOUIS PORTER Vermont Press Bureau | October 15,2008
MONTPELIER — A blade on one of the Searsburg wind power turbines flew off during a recent windstorm, hitting the tower the turbine sits on and destroying it.
It is unclear when, or even if, the nonfunctioning turbine will be back to full capacity. It was one of 11 that make up the Searsburg project owned by Green Mountain Power.
"We had some really strong winds coming through," said GMP spokeswoman Dorothy Schnure. "A blade failed and struck the tower."
As a result of the accident, which sent the three blades of the turbine falling to the foot of the tower, the turbine was completely destroyed.
"It was damaged beyond repair," Schnure said.
Nobody was hurt in the incident, which did not pose a danger, she said.
The wind project was built in the late 1990s, with turbines that are smaller and on shorter towers than those used in new projects.
"They don't make them this size any more," Schnure said.
The Searsburg site was built as a research project and was the largest wind installation east of the Mississippi River when it was made.
When the project was built, "it really helped boost development of wind power projects, particularly in cold climates" Schnure said.
The project remains the only operational industrial scale wind project in the state.
Searsburg uses turbines that are roughly 200 feet tall, including the turbine blades. New turbines are typically 300 feet, 400 feet or larger.
That means it is unclear if the turbine will be replaced, so the project is producing roughly 90 percent of its normal power output. Typically Searsburg makes about 12 million kilowatts of electricity a year, or enough to provide power for more than 1,500 houses.
"It is a shame, obviously, to lose that turbine," Schnure said. But one benefit of a wind installation compared with other power sources is that a wind project does not go down completely.
"When you have a problem the whole site is not brought down, and it is still operating at 90 percent," Schnure said.
A similar fate befell the first wind turbine in Vermont, which was installed in the early 1940s on Grandpa's Knob in Hubbardton, near Rutland. A blade on that windmill — the first such wind powered turbine to be connected to the electric grid — came off in 1945, ending the project.
Although Searsburg remains the only commercial wind project operating in Vermont, there are several other proposals in the works, including the Deerfield Wind project proposed nearby in Searsburg and Readsboro.
That project of between 15 and 24 turbines and now before the Public Service Board would be a 45 megawatt potential project. Public hearings are expected to begin on the Deerfield proposal in December or early in 2009.