Please believe me when I say that I am not “rooting” for wind turbines to fail. I certainly hope that most of the machines that are built and installed provide reliable service for their owners. However, as guy who used to make a living as operating engineer, I have to say that I was not surprised to read an article on the front page of the Wall Street Journal today describing how some turbines installed in the US in recent years have developed some cracks in their blades. (TURBULENCE AHEAD: India Windmill Empire Begins to Show Cracks)
After all, these blades are rather massive constructions that are at least as long as the wing of large aircraft. They are designed to be as lightweight as possible and to have efficient aerodynamic characteristics. They are also fully exposed to all weather including sun, sleet, rain, and snow. It would be very surprising if the engineering and manufacturing of these larger structures were done without any errors or failures.
What remains to be seen, however, is the effect on the long term reliability and operating costs for the machines, especially as customers continue to purchase ever larger turbines with longer and longer blades. What I am really interested in following is the operating costs for 5 MW capacity off shore turbines that are exposed to salt air in a place where blade replacement will involve a major logistical effort.