Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Statistically, wind turbines don’t cause many aviation accidents, but even one incident is more than enough to awaken builders to the absolute need to mark their turbines with obstruction lighting.
On a foggy day in April 2014, a private Piper airplane crashed into the blade of a wind turbine near Highmore, S.D., killing all four people on board. A National Transportation Safety Board investigation revealed the light on the turbine was not operational when the crash occurred. It was later revealed that the tower’s obstruction lighting had been inoperable for some time.
Since the 2007 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines for obstruction lighting were published, there has been an increase in the number of wind turbine installations. As more and more wind turbines are built throughout North America, they present an increasing hazard to low-flying aircraft, particularly in poor visibility. According to the Wind Turbine FAQs on the FAA Obstruction Evaluation/Airport Airspace Analysis website – oeaaa.faa.gov – the FAA is receiving over 1,000 wind turbine filings each month to clarify American Wind Energy Association reports that the annual capacity installations have been 5,000 MW or more every year since 2007, while it was half or less in all of the years preceding.