Wind turbines continue to multiply the world over. But as they grow bigger and bigger, the number of dangerous accidents is climbing. How safe is wind energy?
Simone Kaiser and Michael Fröhlingsdorf in Spiegel Online:
After the industry’s recent boom years, wind power providers and experts are now concerned. The facilities may not be as reliable and durable as producers claim. Indeed, with thousands of mishaps, breakdowns and accidents having been reported in recent years, the difficulties seem to be mounting. Gearboxes hiding inside the casings perched on top of the towering masts have short shelf lives, often crapping out before even five years is up. In some cases, fractures form along the rotors, or even in the foundation, after only limited operation. Short circuits or overheated propellers have been known to cause fires. All this despite manufacturers’ promises that the turbines would last at least 20 years.
Gearboxes have already had to be replaced “in large numbers,” the German Insurance Association is now complaining. “In addition to generators and gearboxes, rotor blades also often display defects,” a report on the technical shortcomings of wind turbines claims. The insurance companies are complaining of problems ranging from those caused by improper storage to dangerous cracks and fractures.
The frail turbines coming off the assembly lines at some manufacturers threaten to damage an industry that for years has been hailed as a wild success.