Worker injured in crane collapse
GRAND MEADOW — Officials from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated an incident in rural Mower County after a man was injured Friday morning when a $5 million crane malfunctioned near Grand Meadow while working on a wind turbine.
An unnamed employee of Dawes Rigging and Crane Rental was operating the 310-foot crane just after 7 a.m. when an automatic shut off safety feature malfunctioned, causing it to tip over and crush the crane's cab with the man inside, according to Mower County Sheriff Terese Amazi.
The man was airlifted to Rochester by a Mayo Clinic helicopter for treatment of unknown injuries. Steve Freckmann, Dawes' general manager in Elk Mound, Wis., declined to identify the injured employee, but said he believed that the man was in stable condition Friday.
The U.S. Department of Labor updated its crane regulations in 2010 — the first refresh since 1971 — in an attempt to improve worker safety. One of the major changes required crane operators to be certified in the equipment they were using, which was aimed at reducing deaths from about 100 per year.
The Dawes crane crew was hired by NextEra Energy to repair gear boxes at the 43-turbine Mower Wind Energy Center, according to spokesman Steve Stengel. The wind project was built in 2006 about five miles south of Grand Meadow. It creates about 99 megawatts of energy.
Minnesota has the seventh most installed wind capacity in the country with nearly 3,000 megawatts, according to an April 2014 report from the American Wind Energy Association. Mower County currently has 284 turbines spinning, many of which stand about 400 feet tall and are readily visible while traveling on Interstate 90.
While RES Americas is in the midst of building a new 200-megawatt project in Mower County, which will be purchased by Xcel Energy upon completion, some people are critical of the wind turbine proliferation.
Concerns about wind power include shadow flicker, stray voltage, negative impacts on birds and bats, and myriad of other issues. Critics have also leveled charges of inefficiencies and frequent breakdowns for their opposition.
Goodhue County citizens spent six figures successfully opposing a controversial 78-megawatt wind project once backed by Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens. The five-year permitting battle created national headlines and saw project developers spend more than $15 million trying to get the project built before it came to an unceremonious end last fall.