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Jun 7, 2013

The Wind Coalition Call On Media to Correct Errors in Storm Reporting

In a letter to ABC News, Jeffrey Clark, Executive Director of the The Wind Coalition called upon that organization to correct substantive errors made in its reporting on tornado damage in El Reno, Oklahoma. No operational or standing wind turbines were damaged during the weather event:

We are aware that in the midst of covering the recent devastating storms in Oklahoma, as with all rapidly developing stories, it was difficult to piece together facts as events unfolded. However, we want to call attention to inaccuracies in your June 1, 2013 report involving tornado damage to the child care facility located at the Canadian Valley Technology Center in El Reno, Oklahoma.

Link: http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/video/deadly-tornadoes-strike-oklahoma-19306599 

In the report, using a wind turbine blade as a dramatic backdrop, meteorologist Ginger Zee stated that the force of the tornadoes tore a wind turbine blade from its tower and dropped it onto the day care center. Further, she states that maintenance staff at the facility reported that three blades were sheared from the tower and that two of those blades were still unaccounted for.

There were (and are) two standing turbines owned by the technology center which are used to train wind energy technicians. One is an 85 foot tower with a nacelle that does not, and did not, have attached blades. The other is a 126 foot tower which includes a nacelle with three blades.

Although one or both were directly hit by what has been estimated by the National Weather Service to have been an EF5 tornado, they appear to have withstood the storm with no discernible damage. The attached blades are intact and, obviously, accounted for.

The blade that landed atop the building was a demonstration blade used by the facility in training wind technicians to study how to properly conduct installations and repairs. That particular blade, which weighs approximately 16,000 pounds and is 147 feet in length, was donated by a turbine manufacturer and was, at the time of the tornado, secured to the ground by steel straps attached to massive concrete structures.

The tremendous force of the tornado lifted the blade from the ground and transported it 75 feet from its storage location to the building it landed upon, a building which appears to have already been severely damaged prior to the blade’s impact as indicated by the fact that there was no roofing material found under the blade. An inspection of the blade attachment bolts, which are visible in the ABC report, clearly shows no trauma or damage to the couplings or the bolts as would be expected if the blade had been torn from the nacelle or any attachment.

The damage to the facility is unfortunate but it is important to point out that the damage had nothing to do with an operational wind farm, a wind turbine in operational service, or a wind blade failure.

Your report, which neglects these facts, may leave viewers with a misimpression concerning the safety of wind energy technology. The wind industry, which we represent, has invested billions of dollars in turbine and blade designs and sophisticated technologies to maximize safety and resiliency.

Again, while we recognize and respect the tremendous pressure and time constraints inherent in reporting fast breaking news, we also feel that it is important that the facts be presented and misstatements corrected.

Therefore, we respectfully request that you present a clarification of these facts so that viewers may be accurately informed about the nature of these tragic events.