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By Miriam Raftery

Photos by Jim Pelley

November 21, 2016 (Ocotillo) – A 500-foot-tall wind turbine at the Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility collapsed this morning, spewing debris and three blades each weighing many tons across the desert floor.

ECM photographer Jim Pelley, an Ocotillo resident, says 30 minutes after the collapse, the other 111 turbines were still spinning and no one from Pattern Energy had arrived.  Around an hour or more after the collapse, Pattern arrived and deenergized the entire project.

Pelley told East County Magazine that the ground was not saturated from rainfall and the foundation is intact, raising serious questions as to what caused the massive turbine to collapse and whether others could have a design or engineering flaw that could lead to similar failures.  Winds were only 15 miles an hour or less during the three hours before the collapse. The tower bent into the wind,  not away from it,  and did not collapse at a joint in the three-piece tower, but in between.

Edie Harmon was outside her home five miles south of the wind farm around10:30 a.m. when she heard the turbine collapse.  It sounded like  “a massive explosion.  I thought a military jet had crashed to the ground,“  she said in a phone interview with ECM.

When she drove home tonight,  after the project was deenergized,  she told ECM, "I didn’t see lighting on any of them.  I sure hope we don’t have a low-flying Border Patrol  plane.”

Harmon also voiced concerns over leakage of toxins into the ground and the aquifer below that provides the town’s drinking water, after such a major explosion.

Witnesses said the collapsed caused a loud boom and raised a cloud of dust.  One witness told Pelley that blades were turning as the turbine collapsed and may have struck the tower.  

Pelley, an aerospace engineer who has extensively documented this project since its inception, found that Pattern put larger blades than the towers  were originall built to hold,  in order to maximize production, replacing model 23-101 with 23-108.  He speculated that bending back and forth under heavier blades, which are on all the turbines,  may have caused the tower's central section to collapse.

While this turbine is in a remote location, others are located close to major roadways including Interstate 8, as well as homes, a school, and public trails on federal Bureau of Land Management property.

The website Ocotillo Wind Destruction has also posted this and other images, drawing posts from residents angry over the threat to public safety and lack of responsiveness thus far by pattern.

Parke Ewing, who has a turbine near his home, wrote, "Are they going to wait for someone to be killed before these unreliable monsters are decommissioned?"  a reference to the fact that the project has failed to meet wind production capacity projections every year since it was built.

A 2014 award-winning ECM investigation, "Was it fraud?" exposed evidence suggesting the developer may have defrauded the federal government to secure wind production tax subsidies by falsifying a map to make the project appear to be 3,000 feet higher in altitude, at a sight with more wind than the actual location.

ECM has contacted Pattern Energy and left a message asking for information at the company’s La Jolla headquarters.  We also called the BLM's Imperial County office, where staff was unaware of the collapse an hour after it occured.  We  contacted  SDG&E, which responded that Sempra has been informed of the situation.

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Rip Them Out!!

Having lived in San Diego for many years, I remember how peaceful and beautiful Ocotillo was BEFORE they installed these ugly pieces of trash. I feel badly for the residents of Ocotillo for having to tolerate those things. Surely they could have been installed further out, maybe in a less-scenic, more remote location. Hopefully sooner than later they will all be removed and Pattern Energy forced to repair the damage to the desert floor. We visit the area occasionally and are saddened by the sight of them. It's really a disgrace. I would love to see Pattern sued for the distress they've caused the local residents. For Pattern, it's all about greed and nothing more. Thank you Jim Pelley and everyone else involved who have taken the time to document and bring attention to this mess. I believe it is only a matter of time before Ocotillo is once again the beautiful place it one was.


Pattern Energy said this was not going to happen. It also said there was going to be enough wind to power the turbines. It also said they would not leak or throw blades......

Wind representatives,whore researchers & colluding agencies

What I have learned from 8 years of research into the wind industry is that the public should never rely on any opinions from any profit seeking wind industry representatives, their whore researchers or any of our colluding government agencies because all these people are bound by nondisclosure arrangements. What this actually means is that all their statements are filtered and they will lie or lie by omission about nearly everything.

In fact the public has no idea how much or how little energy these turbines a really produce. I say this because wind farms do not have to account for any of the energy flowing into their projects off the grid. In other words no one really knows how much of the green energy being reported to the EIA or sold to the public is actually being produced from other sources.

For the record.................It is against the law to kill eagles, yet when a distraught wind tech tells me about 5 unreported chopped up eagles killed in one month by his company's turbines and the USFWS does nothing, there is something very wrong with the system.

When I have evidence of mortality searches written up in a mortality study that never took place and the Interior Department will not investigate, there is something very wrong with the system.

When a Federally sponsored study on the golden eagle population around Altamont Pass has embellished their numbers by more than ten times, there is something very wrong with the system.

When the Eagle Repository has received over 33000 (conservative estimate) eagle carcasses since 1997, with thousands upon thousands of these eagles coming from wind turbines and the Interior Department will not tell the public, we have big time corruption problems.

The Denver Eagle Repository or what truly is the "wind industry's eagle morgue", holds the hidden truth (exact numbers) about this terribly destructive industry. These numbers along with the origin of the thousands of eagles being received each year, have been covered up since 1997 by new laws put in place by the Clinton Administration.

These terrible laws were put in place so the wind industry could prosper and lie by omission about their carnage. In 1997 The Freedom of Information Act was changed by Bill Clinton and all USFWS personnel were silenced from releasing any unauthorized information. In other words all information released from the USFWS has been filtered since 1997. If agents disobey and talk or release images of the eagles or endangered species they are picking up from wind farm freezers, they can get 3 years in prison.
Lease holders, federal employees, and wind industry employees can say nothing about any of this without being prosecuted because they are all tied up with gag orders. It has been with tactics like this, that has allowed the wind industry to prosper and hide their slaughter to millions of protected birds annually.

I wonder if the oversize

I wonder if the oversize blades were an attempt to compensate for the area's light winds--winds that are in fact, by the state's own standards, too light for wind farms of this type?

Wind industry fraud

Whatever the reason for this collapse, taxpayers are on the hook. I also want to point something else out to the people in Southern Ca that have to live with these worthless behemoths. Besides blighting their scenic landscapes, these corporate goldmines being fed by taxpayers, are supplying about one half of 1 percent of Southern CA's total energy needs.

SD Wind Project

Hello we live in SD and wind is trying to saturate our countryside. Can you please give us some information regarding 500 foot turbines. How often are they built. Are they safe and reliable? How loud are they? - please use a dba meter. Do you have shadow flicker? What are your county ordinances - do you feel they are sufficient? What would you recommend. Do you have any effects to your property value? Any health or wildlife changes? Did people agree to transmission lines going through? Was there meetings or were you just told this is happening? Lots of questions, sorry about that...we just need lots of help. For those who may respond - please let me know if you are affliated with a wind company/manufacturer or a local resident near one. Thank you all so much.

type in "Ocotillo Wind" and "Tule Wind" and "Kumeyaay Wind"

and "Campo wind" and just "wind turbines" into our search bar to find many dozens of articles we've written.

The short answer is this project was fast-tracked through with many experts, tribes and residents raising serious concerns in hearings and in public comments but were virtually all ignored. This project has been a disaster on every level.  The turbines are not safe since besides this collapse there was one that caught fire and another that threw off a blade among other problems. There have been pollution problems with dust suppresssant chemicals,  herbicides sprayed, and hydraulic fluid leaking. There are flashing lights all night disrupting residents sleep. Some complain of noise and infrasound though less than at other projects since there is very little wind here - this project failed to meet wind capacity production projections every year since it was built.  The project descrated tribal sacred sites,  mowed down century-old ocotillos, went over critical bighorn sheep habitat that was magically delisted to get this through.  Blade flicker and flashing lights are problems too.  The people did not want the transmission lines or the substation either.  I don't have hard data  on property values but some residents say they've been unable even to sell their homes at all as nobody wants to live near these.

The setback claim is a joke since this is public land with no fencing or even warning signs.  People ride dirt bikes,  hike, etc. directly underneath the blades. .I've personally walked up and touched one of the turbines.  The blade that fell was on a public trail.


Do Some Research

East County Magazine has provided a lot of info about the turbines, search the archives.


Thank you Jim, Parke, and Miriam for your ongoing efforts to show how wrong the Ocotillo wind project is.