Windmill flying apart


Ever wonder what it looks like when a windmill’s brakes fail? It’s NOT pretty (but it is pretty cool). The second vid shows it in dramatic slo-mo.

Windmill/turbine going wild and finally breaking – [Thanks, Patti!] Link

14 thoughts on “Windmill flying apart

  1. Mr Dan says:

    wow. now that is something you definately don’t want to make !

  2. zof says:

    looks like the failure point was one of the blades, wonder if the blades were stronger if it could take the forces.

  3. gear head says:

    I thought the blades were supposed to feather when the wind speed got above a certain point, that or the generator is supposed to switch to a mode which effectively retards and stops the fan assembly.

  4. gear head says:

    apparently it was a runaway and they set up the camera knowing it was likely to self destruct. Pretty impressive.

  5. Phaedrus says:

    As I understand it, this ‘mill was 20-30 years old, and did not have all of the modern safety and redundancies. The brakes failed, and it would have survived if not for the overspeed.

  6. jeremiah says:

    couldn’t they just load it heavily, increasing the torque required to get it to a certain RPM? that’s how a lot of home-brew wind generators are made safe – short the generator. inverse electromagnetic currents are set up in the generator which basically act as a brake.

    i’m guessing that the physical brake system failed, not an electromagnetic braking system.

  7. Dave Barak says:

    Here’s a thought… I wonder if the blade tips went supersonic? That could possibly cause the disintegration, and it’s not outside the realm of possibility that they reached speeds like that.

  8. adrian says:

    @ feathering blades
    @ loading the genny

    Feathering isn’t always controlled automatically. Often a base station sends a command for the turbine to yaw out of the wind. If communications had been severed from the weather station it wouldn’t receive that command.

    overloading this generator could be as catastrophic as the blades disintegrating. Overloading would result in many hundreds of amps coursing through wire not designed for it…

  9. Noah Buddy says:

    It seems many viewers (at other sites) see this as a reason not to build massive wind turbines. I think this shows just how much energy is available in the wind.

  10. The Snob says:


    No kidding. Ever been in the turbine hall of a steam plant? A truly awesome amount of kinetic energy going on there. Scary to think how far the parts would fly in the event of a catastrophic failure.

  11. Morten says:

    It was the safety system of the windmill that failed, which should have stopped it once the winds reached such speeds, and they knew it was going to happen.. (happened here in Denmark, where i live)
    It was one of the neighbours that recorded it..

  12. soapy says:

    If you shorted out the electrics, all that would happen is the gearbox would have sheared the teeth off, and then the blades would have had no resistance at all to slow them, thus ensuring that they frag.

    A better way to deal with this is to steer the blades so they are not directly into the wind, so the felt windspeed is reduced.

  13. Michael says:


    Just show them what happens when the brakes on a nuclear reactor fail ;)

  14. Capissen says:

    Just moved to the midwest recently and saw my first wind turbine…I had no clue that were that huge! And to see one fly apart…just incredible.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

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