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Wind of Change for Electrical Distribution

By Graphic Products Editorial Staff

winds of change graphic

There was a magic moment in the late 90’s when harnessing wind for electrical distribution was the glory of the future of clean energy, until doubt surfaced. That idea sounds eerily similar to the melancholy song "Wind of Change" by the 80's metal band Scorpions. Unlike the tune’s focus on memories of hope lost, we’re looking at the wind energy movement’s challenges, opportunities, and safety hazards and how to overcome them.

Challenge

Solution

Movement cost: Generally good wind farm locations are remote. Electric lines become congested and it’s expensive to build transmission lines to send electricity into cities.

Wind energy investors have plans to build a right of way for water pipelines that will act as large transmission lines from rural to urban areas. There are several other types of plans in discussion with Congress.

Competition: Wind farm sites may compete with other land use alternatives.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has focused on screening otherwise-unusable locations for wind turbine sites. An emphasis on redevelopment of “contaminated” lands or underutilized sites will:

  • Reuse land that would normally be difficult to rehabilitate.
  • Conserve other green spaces or alternative uses where wind farms might otherwise be located.

Environment: Concern over the noise pollution (some turbines match the sound of a car driving 70 mph).

  • Technical innovations have reduced noise by introducing turbines with lighter blades.
  • The Department of Energy (DOE) plans to replace older noisier turbines with more efficient models.
  • Fewer turbines will be placed in multiple locations of less densely populated areas.

Wildlife: Birds and bats have been killed by flying into the rotors.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are evaluating siting plans for wind turbine farms situated where they won’t affect bird or bat migration routes. Currently, wind turbines account for less than 1% of bird fatalities (compared to climate changes, buildings, animals, vehicles, pesticides etc…) according to reports by ewea.org.

Safety: The industry has grown to more than 75,000 workers in a short amount of time. Safety is a prime concern.

Clear communication and training for all employees entering this field of work is expected. See table below for more detailed information.

Just like any other electrical distribution power source, 100 foot high wind turbines create hazards for workers. The following table outlines the type of work, common hazards, and OSHA requirements to keep employees safe. Proper identification, warnings, and clearly worded directions provide workers their first line of defense against these hazards.

Type of Work (Typically Turbines will be 100ft or Higher)

Common Hazard

OSHA Regulation

OSHA Requirements

Identification Needs

Turbine Construction

  •  Falls
  •  Electrical distribution

29 CFR 1926 (construction work)

During construction, employees exposed to fall distances of 6 feet or more must be protected by:

-Guard rails

-Safety nets -or-

-Personal fall arrest systems

The danger of arc flash, electric shock, & thermal burn requires warnings & PPE.

-Clearly worded fall warnings

-Available Fault Current labels

-Arc flash warnings

Turbine Servicing

  • -Falls
  • -Climbing fatigue/ladders

29 CFR 1910 (general industry work)

During any type of general industry work, employees exposed to fall distances of 4 feet or more must be protected by:

-Guard rail on platform -or- last resort, personal fall arrest system

-Clearly worded fall warnings

Turbine Monitoring and Servicing

  • -Falls
  • -Crane, derrick & hoist hazards
  • -Electrical distribution
  • -Respiratory Protection
  • -Machine Guarding

29 CFR 1910 (general industry work)

The danger of arc flash, electric shock, & thermal burns requires proper PPE

-General industry fall protection

-PPE

-Proper Lockout/Tagout

-Clearly worded arc flash warnings

-Available fault current labels

For a free Available Fault Current Labeling Guide, simply request one online, or contact one of our knowledgeable representatives at 888.326.9244 for any of your safety labeling questions.

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