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State tightens wind turbine safety rules

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The state Public Service Commission will order all wind power developers to certify that emergency control systems will shut turbines down during loss of power as a result of a turbine collapse more than a year ago, according to a news release Thursday.

A wind turbine collapsed March 6, 2009, at Noble Environmental Power LLC's Noble Altona Wind Park in Clinton County. Noble, the largest wind developer in the state, operates several projects with 612 megawatts of installed capacity and 216 in development.

An investigation by staff from the Public Service Commission concluded that the collapse of the turbine and failure of a second at the 65-turbine Altona project were a result of incorrect wire installation. That prevented the turbines from going into an automatic shutdown mode when they lost power.

The commission's new certification requirement will be part of the application for a certificate of public convenience and necessity, which all wind projects 80 megawatts and larger must receive. That requirement would exclude Acciona's proposed St. Lawrence Wind Farm in Cape Vincent, which is planned for 79.5 megawatts.

"We want to ensure that wind in New York state continues to operate in a safe and reliable manner," said James A. Denn, spokesman for the commission.

Wind power developers also will be required to show proof that projects comply with manufacturers' recommendations for inspection and maintenance of turbines, towers and related facilities. Those certifications could be done by electrical or mechanical engineering firms.

James H. Madden, project manager for BP Alternative Energy's Cape Vincent Wind Farm, said in an e-mail he didn't think the new certification would be a major hurdle.

Maple Ridge Wind Farm in Lewis County uses Vestas turbines. A spokesman for Iberdrola Renewables, co-owner of Maple Ridge and developer of Horse Creek wind farms, said Maple Ridge adheres to a "strict schedule" of maintenance, following the manufacturer's recommendations.

As for the certification, "we are still considering how we will approach this new requirement," Paul N. Copleman, communications manager, said in an e-mail.

Galloo Island Wind Farm's representative from Upstate NY Power declined to comment and Acciona's representative did not have a comment available Friday afternoon.

The commission will require Noble Environmental Power to show cause why it should not be required to demonstrate that its wind farms in New York are operating safely and that all quality assurance and control program measures have been implemented.


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