DTE Energy, a Detroit, Michigan-based utility, is in the midst of an investigation into why a piece of a local wind turbine blade apparently broke off during a non-peak wind period earlier this week, the Huron Daily Tribune reports.

Scott Simons, a spokesman for the utility, told the news source that an alarm went off during the early morning hours on Monday, March 11. Upon investigation, the utility found that one of the blades at Thumb Wind Park in Sigel Township appeared to have been damaged, and a portion of the blade was discovered on the ground below the turbine.  

“And so right now, we’re on scene along with GE (General Electric) investigating the matter and trying to determine (what went wrong),” Simons explained.

Simons added that wind conditions appeared to be normal when the piece broke, and that the utility had not seen any evidence to suggest a bird had flown into the turbine. It was too early, the spokesman noted, to speculate whether or not foul play was involved. 

While Simons acknowledged that incidents like these are very rare, manufacturers such as General Electric can benefit significantly from improved testing techniques. Though accidents and foul play can certainly be issues, smart, efficient testing can limit potential defects that could lead to product failure and downtime, something that is particularly important in a growing industry like wind energy. 

The Michigan Public Service Commission recently reported, in fact, that DTE Energy’s three wind parks in what is known as “The Thumb” region of Michigan are projected to contribute about $150 million in economic benefits to the state.