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Surprising Science

The Dark Side of Renewable Energy

Safety regulations have lagged in the relatively new industry of renewable energy. From solar panels to wind turbines, workers can be put in harms way if precautions aren't taken. 

What’s the Latest Development?


Accidents involving wind turbines have tripled in the last decade, consistent with the increasing popularity of the new technology. In an industry as new as renewable energy, workers are often inexperienced and safety regulations not yet established. “Many wind turbine technicians work in a bathroom-size space 20 stories above ground surrounded by high-voltage electrical equipment. Some inspect turbine blades while suspended alongside them, on sites whipped by strong winds. Components can weigh more than 90 tons.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Though renewable energy is all the rage, we cannot sacrifice the safety of industry technicians for our enthusiasm over green technology. While not quite the factories of Victorian England, renewable energy infrastructure, especially wind turbines, can pose health and safety problems. “Watchdog groups say a hodgepodge of state and federal renewable energy safety standards haven’t kept up with the growth of the industry. Some were adapted from other industries and don’t specifically cover wind and solar projects.”


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