Wind turbines, used to convert the power of nature into electricity, are becoming more common across the United States. As a source of clean energy, wind turbines have seen explosive growth since 1999, when they provided 500 megawatts of power to today's output of over 62,000 megawatts of power. This is enough clean energy to power 15 million homes whenever the wind is blowing.

A popular source of clean energy, wind turbines have grown to become towering power plants, weighing thousands of pounds, extending hundreds of feet into the sky. Since 1999, the average hub height has increased 50% and the average rotor diameter has increased 96%. Considering the electrical output of the average wind turbine is less than 2 MW, it can be assumed that there have been more than 30,000 turbines installed within the last 15 years. There are over 46,000 operating wind Turbines in the United States.

While there are many wind turbine designs, sizes and installation types, this paper will focus on the most common type, utility scale, three-blade horizontal axis wind turbines. The size of these units will vary, with most of the units having a rotor diameter of 150 to 250 feet and a hub height of 200 to over 300 feet. The objective of this paper is to:

  • Provide an overview of wind turbine operation

  • Explore the types of accidents that are most common to wind farms

  • Discuss common wind farm external safety concerns

  • Discuss some helpful wind farm safety tips

Wind Turbine Operation

Wind farms are typically located in areas that have been proven (by a wind study) to have a good wind resource. Most of these tend to be remote areas. However, modern wind technology is allowing for wind turbines to operate efficiently with lower available wind. As a clean energy initiative, wind turbines can and often are installed on and near houses, schools, hospitals, universities and municipalities. It is no longer uncommon to find a wind turbine near occupied facilities. This creates hazards to the public that were not prevalent initially.

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