The owners of a troubled wind farm project which has been at a standstill for 10 months say they are now considering taking the controversial turbines down.
Two massive turbines were installed half a mile off the Northumberland coast at Blyth in 2000 at a cost of £4m – the first offshore wind farm project in the country.
But the project has been blighted by problems. Now bosses at the consortium who own the generators are reviewing their future.
The evaluation comes in the wake of revelations that the two giant machines have been reduced to a standstill since last March.
Both the turbines have been out of action since the main power cable which lies on the seabed and connects the turbines with a sub-station on the coast was sliced – meaning no electricity could be produced.
And this is expected to continue until the summer because of difficult sea and weather conditions.
The long-term problem is the latest in a series to hit the project. In 2002, a blade had to be replaced after it was hit by lightning. And two years ago, one of the 200kW turbines was out of action for several months after a cable connecting the two machines failed.
Now a spokesman for the consortium which owns the huge turbines say they are considering removing them.
Blyth’s two turbines were funded and are now owned by a consortium comprising Shell and European utility companies E.ON and NUON, as well as a token 1% shareholding by AMEC wind energy business of Hexham, who installed them.
An E.ON spokesman said: “We now have to think about what we want to do with the turbines – whether we want to remove them or if we should fix the cable.”
But he has also defended the project – insisting it was a “genuine test case” that enabled much larger projects, such as those at Scroby Sands at Great Yarmouth, to go ahead successfully.
He added that even if the turbines were removed that the project would not have been a failure.
He said: “The project at Blyth was a genuine test case. It was the first offshore wind farm and without it we would not have been able to go ahead with other, large, projects, which have up to 30 turbines.
“If we do take them down, it will be the first time a wind turbine has been removed, and that would be incredibly useful and will also provide a test case for when large turbine projects have to be taken down in 20 years time or so.”
But critics say question marks over the future of the turbines highlight what a total failure they have been.
They insist it is evidence enough that a further wind farm project planned for Blyth harbour should be halted.
Campaign to Protect Rural England member Elizabeth Mann, who has been researching wind farms, said: “It’s an absolute failure.
“They are now talking about putting up more huge turbines on the harbour, but these ones have been a total failure.
“It shows they simply do not work efficiently.
“It is the public who have noticed they are not working and that has forced them to do something about it.”
By Chloe Griffiths, The Journal
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