demise of the wind turbine

2008-12-17 10:02:36.000 – Jeff Wehrwein,  Summit Intern


Jordan wrote recently about the new wind turbine that the state park installed on Saturday. It is an experiment for both the state park and the turbine manufacturer: if it works well the state park might be able to use wind to power the summit in the future, and the turbine manufacturer will be able to say that its turbine held up in the world’s worst weather. Even as the turbine was being installed, the temperature was well below zero and the wind was averaging around 50 mph. Those who have seen this week’s ObsCast will know that the turbine spins quite fast in that kind of breeze. On Sunday, the hourly wind averages were in the 40-70 mph range, with gusts well into the 80s. In addition, we had periods of rime and glaze ice over night, which certainly put the turbine to the test. As far as we could tell, it held up fine under the icing conditions, and was still spinning happily away Sunday afternoon.

Monday, as I discussed in my previous comment, we had winds sustained around 80mph with regular gusts above 100. The temperature was above freezing, however, so ice was not a concern. The fog was so dense that we couldn’t even see the turbine from the end of the deck, a mere 50 feet away. However, Steve tells me that Monday night he peered through the fog with a flashlight and could still make out the spinning turbine, so apparently the peak gust of 107.5 didn’t bother it too much.

Tuesday morning when I went out for my first observation, I walked down to the end of the deck and peered through the fog once again. It was still pretty dense so I wasn’t sure, but I couldn’t see any upright objects where the turbine should have been. So I walked around the building to get a closer look, and still couldn’t see it. I found Jim from state park as he was on his way out to check on it, and he said that the turbine wasn’t producing voltage like it should have been.

When the fog finally cleared a few hours later, my suspicions were confirmed. Luckily the turbine did not blow off the roof and hurt anybody – it is just lying flat on the roof. Jim tells me that the generator housing, which is at the bottom of the turbine, broke in half. The turbine will be taken down so that the manufacturer can investigate the cause and send up a stronger replacement. Despite this setback, the experiment is already a success: the turbine survived decent icing conditions and sustained winds around 100 mph over its 3-day trial. Only time will tell whether technology has improved enough to make wind power permanently viable on Mount Washington.


Jeff Wehrwein,  Summit Intern

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