November 13, 2007

Questions over safety after turbine collapses

Campaigners fighting plans for the erection of five large wind turbines on a site near the Fife village of Ceres have claimed that the spectacular collapse of a turbine in Argyll raises “very serious questions” about the ultimate safety of the structures.

The comment has come from the Ceres and District Environment and Amenity Protection Group(CADEAP) following news that three Scottish windfarms were switched off last week after a 200 foot high turbine bent in half in high winds, leaving its blades on the ground.

The chairman of CADEAP, Graham Lang, said that the group’s research shows that accidents do happen, and that there are records of turbine tower collapses in Germany, Japan and America.

“A turbine collapsing in the Mull of Kintyre is bad enough, but think of the outcome of such an event at the Michelin site in Dundee” he said.

Mr Lang said that a recent article in Der Speigel on the dangers of wind power referred to thousands of mishaps, breakdowns and accidents having been reported in recent years.

“Blades can break up and broken sections of blade can fly at high speed over long distances.

“The Ceres to Baldinnie road is only 200 metres from the nearest turbine, well within range, and of course any live stock in the fields would be at risk.

“Short circuits and lightning strikes causing turbines to go on fire are another hazard. There are about 200 gallons of flammable hydraulic oil stored in the nacelle at the top of the turbine that houses the generator and gear box.

“If this happened at Gathercauld it is unlikely that there would be any way of dealing with the fire which would have to burn itself out. If such a thing happened at harvest time it is not impossible that nearby arable crops could be damaged.

“This is making the insurance of wind farm developments more difficult and much more expensive” he said.

Last week’s incident occurred at the Scottish Power operated Beinn an Tuirc windfarm near Campbeltown in Argyll and Bute on Thursday afternoon, as winds reached gusts of 50mph locally. It was the first incident of its kind in Scotland.

Scottish Power said afterwards that a team of specialist engineers, including representatives of manufacturers Vestas, is investigating the incident.

The article Mr Lang referred to in Der Spiegel highlighted several incidents in Germany, including the case of a 10 metre fragment of rotor blade coming adrift without warning, spinning through the air, and landing some 200 metres away from the turbine.

Six other turbines of the same model were then examined, and four of them were down due to safety concerns.

Germany is the home of thousands of turbines, but it is claimed in Der Spiegel that after the “boom years” of the industry there is concern that the facilities may not be as reliable and durable as producers claim.

Gordon Berry

The Courier

13 November 2007


Ceres and District Environment and Amenity Protection Group (CADEAP):

Der Spiegel article on NWW here

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