[ RadSafe ] Wind Farms
radproject at sbcglobal.net
Wed Apr 18 14:15:31 CDT 2007
For those who requested a copy of my earlier LOBA [Loss of Blade Accident]
satire, and asked that it be posted to radsafe, it is copied below. If
anyone is not interested in this subject, just delete this email and save
flaming for barbecuing your steaks this summer.
As background to this satire which I authored and published in 1982, The
Providence [RI] Evening Bulletin published a "News in Brief" article on Dec.
31st, 1981, which in its entirety read exactly as noted below:
"MAN KILLED AT WINDMILL"
"BOULEVARD, Calif. (UPI) --The owner of a Pennsylvania windmill a
manufacturing company may have been struck and killed by a windmill blade at
a "wind farm."
Sheriff's Sgt. Curt Ring said Terrence Mehrkam, 34, was found dead yesterday
at the base of the 40-foot high, electricity-generating windmill at the
Buckeye Wind Farm in eastern San Diego County. "It appears the
victim.....was either struck by a loose blade or fell due to the vibration
of the tower when the blade broke free," Ring said. "
When I saw this news report, I immediately recognized that despite the
regrettable death of the windmill manufacturing company owner, this was the
stuff of which satires are made.
My modest attempt at satire submitted to the Providence Journal as a
Letter-to-the-Editor read as follows:
It was titled by the Editorial Page Editor:
"THE POTENTIAL DANGERS OF WINDMILLS
"The Evening Bulletin on Dec. 31st reported an unfortunate, but predictable
power generation accident at a "windmill farm" in California. The president
of a windmill manufacturing company was struck and killed when a windmill he
was working on threw a blade."
"Accidents of this sort are expected, in view of suppressed government
safety-analysis studies of windmill use in electricity generation."
"Despite perception of the windmill as a totally harmless energy source, as
windmill electricity generation proliferates, innocent people will be
exposed to the most dreaded of all power generation accidents -- the Loss of
Blade Accident (LOBA). As windmills get larger and blade speed increases,
LOBA scenarios predict deadly breakdown fragments radiating to great
distances from windmills."
"In a worst-case analysis, a blade fragment could strike a passing 747 jumbo
jet, causing it to crash into a crowded sports stadium, and possibly killing
50,000 persons. As demonstrated with the Block Island windmill, funded by
the Department of Energy, blade rotation can interfere with TV reception,
cause widespread impacts on health including anxiety, and even possibly
increase suicide rates."
"Now is the time, before a major windmill disaster occurs, to declare at
least a five-year moratorium on any new windmills (and perhaps any machine
with propellers) until detailed safety studies can be completed and be
accepted by popular vote. Protection of public health and safety demands no
"To paraphrase Bob Dylan's classic song: 'How many death will it take 'till
we've learned that too many people have died? The problem my friend is
blowing in the wind.' "
M.S. Public Health -Air Pollution Control
My published satire was followed by 5 letters-to-the-editor from parties I
did not know, several of which attacked me since they did not see the
satiric intent and obviously were not familiar with the acronyn LOCA for
Loss of Coolant Accident in the nuclear field vs. my use of LOBA for Loss of
One reply from an "Electric Utility Engineer" [from a local company with a
number of fossil fuel fired electric stations] wrote that my letter was
"incredibly preposterous" and "a vicious and irrational attack on the
blossoming wind energy business." This party tried to argue that there were
problems with early DOE funded wind turbines, but the units were
experimental and that later wind turbines were "designed around early
problems studied solutions based on learned experiences." Funny to see a
wind proponent backed into this interesting corner.
Three of the 5 replies did recognize that my letter was a satire.
The last published letter to the Providence Journal by another party who I
did not know was very on-point to my LOBA letter's intent, and read in part:
"It has been interesting to note the windmill advocates' replies to the
excellent satire by Mr. Stewart Farber in which he postulates the death of
50,000 people resulting from a LOBA causing the crash of a 747 airliner."
Perhaps the public would not be so amused if they realized as I do that the
types of potential disasters which are postulated for nuclear power plants
and which by government edict must be designed for, are even more remote."
"The real tragedy is that we have wasted and are wasting billions nationally
to protect ourselves from the nuclear equivalent of Mr. Farber's LOBA, to
satisfy the phobias of those who don't understand that nuclear power is far
safer and more closely scruitinized that any of the so-called alternatives."
Thankfully 3 of the published replies did see the above as a satire.
Of interest to some, many of the allusions/comments in my LOBA satire were
various facts as they were known at the time.
1)As a windmill gets larger, despite the blades turning at lower rpm, the
tip speed does increase. If the outer tip element breaks off it could fly to
a great distance and reach a respectable elevation if it breaks off at 45
degrees above horizontal. Back in the mid-1940s a large innovative and
experimental1,250 kw output windmill was built at Grandpa's Knob in VT by
the local utility to save oil during WWII. The windmill did work, and fed
power into the local grid. In 1945, one of the 8 ton blades tore loose and
flew 1/4 mile before landing. The project was abandoned. I have a photo of
the windmill before the accident, which appeared in the Dec. 1975 issue of
National Geographic in an interesting article: " New Energy from An Old
Source: The Wind." If anyone is interested, I can scan and email the photo
of this early 1.25 Megawatt output unit before it was terminated. It shows 2
men standing on the blade [which did feather to horizontal to prevent it
2) An analysis had been recently reported that the worst airplane disaster
was not two jumbo jets colliding but a large passenger jet going off the end
of an LAX runway, falling into the Rose Bowl [which is lined up with the
runways at LA airport] when it was jammed with spectators. This reported
safety analysis showed 50,000 people might be killed.
The Block Island, RI windmill built by DOE and operating at the time had a
significant effect on local TV reception. There had been public meetings on
Block Island where there were near riots by local citizens. DOE ended up
having to bring cable TV at the time to every home on the island, at a
greater cost than the demonstration windmill itself! Take away good TV
reception? Who knows what effects it might have on the average American.
Anxiety, depression, increased rates of suicide?? Possibly. :-)
Sidebar stories of possible interest on the LOBA issue:
Shortly after the publication of my LOBA satire, I was told that a
University of RI professor had organized an environmental sciences risk
conference. He used the LOBA satire letter in his opening talk to a plenary
session as an example of a creative way to communicate risk to the general
public and to get people to think.
2nd real LOBA story- $60 million damage in utility LOBA accident:
A major utility corporate office in Massachusetts had installed a very small
windmill around 1980 at the entrance to its complex in Westboro, MA as a
small PR move. The unit rarely rotated due to one problem or another. I knew
the Chief Engineering VP for this utility who told me that every time he
drove by the windmill upon entering the Corporate Office grounds, he would
chuckle in thinking of my LOBA satire.
A few years later, sometime in the late 1980s, New England Electric
System's [NEES] largest coal fired generating station at Brayton Point at
Somerset, MA suffered a catastrophic LOBA of sorts. A few turbine blades in
the front section of the high pressure turbine broke off due to metal
fatigue, and the blade fragments were swept along by steam flow along the
length of the turbine, totally destroying the turbine blades in their path.
The blades flew off and gouged out the turbine shroud, with 6" deep chunks
of steel blasted out by the kinetic energy of the turbine "missile"
fragments broken loose in this actual LOBA accident.
The aftermath: The turbine had to be entirely replaced at a cost of $60
million along with a lengthy outage for one of the largest power plants in
Subsequently, the Chief Engineering VP for this utility told me that he
could no longer chuckle when he drove into the corporate office site past
small windmill they had installed. His having inspected the incredible
damage at the Brayton Point turbine due to a real LOBA, and being forced to
deal with its real consequences, resulted in a LOBA no longer seeming funny.
Stewart Farber, MS Public Health
Farber Technical Services
1285 Wood Ave.
Bridgeport, CT 06604
 441-8433 [office]
 522-2817 [cell]
email: radproject at sbcglobal.net
radproject at aol.com
----- Original Message -----
From: "Maury Siskel" <maurysis at peoplepc.com>
To: "stewart farber" <radproject at sbcglobal.net>
Cc: <efforrer at aol.com>; <radsafe at radlab.nl>
Sent: Saturday, April 14, 2007 5:36 AM
Subject: Re: [ RadSafe ] Wind Farms
>A number of friends and I will never forget your LOBA satire -- that was
>great satiric humor. And if one closes their eyes, prop your feet up with a
>good cup of coffee, then the pictures one conjures up are absolutely
>fabulous! I thanked you then and I'm still grateful for that piece!
> stewart farber wrote:
>> Interesting post. Does anyone have any news articles to forward on this
>> subject of bird kills, or cites to legal action between environmental
>> groups duking it out over wind farms vs. wildlife protection?
>> Many years ago [in 1982] I wrote a satire about "the most dreaded of all
>> power generation accidents --the Loss of Blade Accident [LOBA]" after the
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