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Wind Turbine Starts Fire Near Tehachapi

Night-time fire sparked by a defective wind turbine | Photo courtesy Tehachapi Communities for Responsible Energy Development

A large wind turbine burst into flame late Friday night in the mountains above Mojave, causing a small grassfire. The fire took place near the intersection of Oak Creek and Tehachapi Willow Springs roads.

The fire was spotted and photographed by passersby who, ironically, had just left a meeting of the group Friends of Mojave at which fire danger of wind turbines had been discussed.

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According to Friends of Mojave's Michael Fortuna, the turbine that burned was likely at least ten years old. (It was built by Danish manufacturer NEG Micon, which places the manufacture before 2004 as the NEG Micon imprint was no longer used after the company merged with Vestas, another Danish manufacturer, in that year.) The turbine was installed by Oak Creek Energy and is owned by American Wind Capital.

Large wind turbines can catch fire when the turbines develop excessive heat, igniting lubricating oils -- especially if those oils are old or dirty. Fortuna told ReWire that many of the large turbines in the area develop significant deposits of grease on the undersides of their nacelles -- the section behind the blades that houses the turbine -- as seen in this photo provided by Friends of Mojave:

Wind turbine near Mojave with grease buildup at bottom of nacelle | Photo courtesy Friends of Mojave

Whether this weekend's fire originated in a similar oil slick or within the nacelle that houses the turbine, it did significant damage to the turbine:

Turbine after the fire | Photo courtesy Friends of Mojave

Details regarding the scope of the grassfire were not immediately available. Fortuna told ReWire that local authorities are reluctant to divulge information regadring fires involving wind turbines in the area.

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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