Monday, May 4, 2009

Runaway Windmill

Last night while watching my usual Sunday night TV I hear a blurb for the 11:00 news: Highway 58 indefinitely closed in both directions due to a runaway windmill!

So, my mind is picturing a windmill that ripped itself off of its foundation and is careening down the highway in a desperate attempt to escape the windmill farm, rolling down the road towards the Big City.

That wasn't exactly what happened, though. The windmill farm is located in Tehachapi Pass, on the road between Tehachapi and Mojave, which is fittingly located in the Mojave desert. Lovely town. Anyway, these are the big huge gigantic propeller windmills, not the picturesque Holland windmills, kind of ugly but still fascinating and totally necessary windmills that nobody wants in their neighborhood because they aren't so pretty to look at.

Here is a picture and the actual story:

A runaway windmill in Tehachapi closed Highway 58 — a major east-west freeway connecting California's southern Central Valley to Las Vegas, Nevada and Arizona — for most of the day Sunday.

As of 9 p.m., the highway remained closed between Tehachapi and Mojave. Officials had no estimate as to when it might reopen.

Wind turbines are subject to catastrophic failure when their brakes fail, allowing blades to spin uncontrollably. The resulting vibrations can cause them to explode, spewing propeller blades and debris hundreds of yards, as a YouTube video of an incident in Denmark last year shows.

Large turbines, like some in Tehachapi's wind farm, can boast wingspans as wide as a jumbo jet.

The faulty unit was built in the 1980s and is much smaller than giant ones made today, said Meghan Dotter, spokeswoman for AES Corp., a global power company with North American offices in Virginia, which owns the 90-kilowatt windmill.

The turbine's brakes failed when winds exceeded 50 m.p.h., Dotter said in an e-mail.

The California Highway Patrol shut Highway 58 "in an abundance of caution," she wrote, "because the wind turbine was visible from the road."

The unit sits about 1,500 yards from the freeway.

The latest update this morning was that the freeway was back open, so apparently they caught the runaway and apprehended it. The part of the story that gets me is the fact that some of these propellers have a wingspan as wide as a jumbo jet. That's pretty darn big!


Campbell Jane said...

Wow! Glad it waited 2 weeks and didn't happen while I was driving through coming home from SC!

EtsyWTF said...

Well I guess we won't be switching wind power generators then. Seriously, we were thinking about adding a wind turbine to reduce our power consumption.

BTW are the wash cloths working for you still?

geelizzie said...

etsywtf-the washcloths are working great, I can't believe how much toilet paper I've saved!