CORRECTED: First death from U.S. wind tower collapse recorded

Tue Aug 28, 2007 2:30pm EDT

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Corrects headline and recasts story to show first U.S. death from collapse of wind tower, not the first U.S. death at a wind farm.

By Bernie Woodall

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A man died over the weekend at a wind farm under construction in Oregon in what is believed to be the first death of a wind power worker from a tower collapse in the United States, law enforcement and industry officials said on Monday.

Chadd Mitchell, 35, was killed on Saturday afternoon when a 242-foot-tall tower he was working on toppled over, said a dispatcher for the Sherman County Sheriff's Department.

Mitchell, of Goldendale, Washington, was working at the top of the tower -- essentially a hollow tube -- when it buckled. A second worker in the tube was injured and a third worker on the ground was not hurt, according to The Oregonian newspaper. Federal officials are investigating the incident, it said.

The maker of the wind turbine at the Klondike 3 wind farm, due to open this autumn, is Germany's Siemens. A spokeswoman for Siemens, the second-largest maker of turbines for U.S. wind farms, was not immediately available to comment.

Susan Sloan of the American Wind Energy Association said Mitchell's death was believed to be the first in the burgeoning U.S. wind power industry from the collapse of a tower.

Wind power generation is growing about 20 percent a year.

There are about 20,000 wind turbines in the United States.

Sloan said wind turbines and the towers that hold them are not inherently unsafe, and that she could not speak specifically of the Oregon incident.

She said the AWEA does not track deaths in the wind power industry, but she said that a handful of people have been killed while performing maintenance or construction at wind farms. The U.S. wind industry is more than 30 years old, but most of its explosive growth has been in the past five or six years.

"Like many businesses where you are working with big equipment and at construction sites and power plants, you have to have safety procedures in place," Sloan said. "The industry does that. All of our members have standards in place and make a very serious effort at establishing safety procedures."

Klondike 3 is located near Wasco in Sherman County in north-central Oregon. It is being developed by PPM Energy, a Portland, Oregon-based unit of Scottish Power Plc that already runs the adjacent Klondike 1 and Klondike 2 farms.

Siemens made 44 of Klondike 3's 124 turbines. The Siemens turbines are among the biggest at 2.3 megawatts of capacity. The rest are made by General Electric, the leader in installed U.S. wind turbines, and are of 1.5-megawatt size.

With a capacity of 221 megawatts, Klondike 3 will be able, on average, to generate enough power for 96,000 Oregon homes.

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