SAN JON – On Sunday, Jan. 2, a 100-foot-long wind-turbine blade fell from one of the 220 foot tall turbines located on the caprock to the ground striking an electrical transformer which in turn ignited non-toxic mineral oil used as insulation for the turbine causing a blaze at the base of the tower..
“This is a very rare situation,” said Cielo Wind Power Inc. President Walt Hornaday about the fire at the 20 feet in diameter base of the tower. “I have been in this business 20 years and nothing like this has ever happened before.”
Firefighters from San Jon responded to the fire whose smoke could be seen as far away as Tucumcari.
“With all that smoke we really thought we had something for a while,” said San Jon Firefighter Richard Flint. “Then we got up there and we saw that it was contained to that small area by them.”
Hornaday said despite the uniqueness of the incident, a full investigation has begun of the fire and the blade falling. Hornaday said all of the other turbines on the caprock have been examined for similar problems as part of the investigation.
Flint said he too felt it was something of unique event.
“Yeah, it was just one of those things that happens,” said Flint.
The Cielo President said the incident “seemed to be a series of unfortunate mistakes,” and will not appreciably affect the functioning of the wind farm. “It is the only one down,” said Hornaday. “We’ve got 59 others that are capable of working fine.” Hornaday said that currently the wind generators are not running because the system located on the caprock is linking into the Xcel energy grid.
“That’s why were not running right now,” said Hornaday. “It has nothing to do with that one rare accident. Once we’re back up we’ll have 59 towers going.” Hornaday said when the accident happened it was confined to that single turbine located just east of New Mexico Highway 469.
“No surrounding area was effected,” said Hornaday.
The Cielo President said the reason for lack of damage was because the area beneath the towers had been cleared for their construction.