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An inquiry has been launched after Cumbria’s oldest wind turbine collapsed. It is thought to be the first such incident in the 29-year history of harnessing wind energy in the UK.
The Health and Safety Executive has been notified of the incident, which has prompted safety fears from Cumbrian anti-windfarm campaigners.
Investigations are under way to determine what caused the 100-ft steel structure near Hesket Newmarket to crash to the ground. The British Wind Energy Association, which represents 98 per cent of UK wind energy firms, will be directly involved and has pledged to act on any potential issues arising.
The turbine, thought to weigh around 11 tonnes, has been helping to produce energy to power J Stobart & Sons animal feed mill at Newlands for the last 19 years.
When it was installed it was only the second privately-owned wind turbine in the country. But it collapsed, narrowly missing a country road, at around 11.30am last Friday while the plant was operating. No-one was hurt.
J Stobart & Sons, which has been operating for around 40 years, notified the HSE. The HSE is waiting for further details before deciding whether a full investigation needs to be carried out. Peter Stobart, one of the company’s directors, has confirmed that investigations will be carried out by the contractor employed to maintain the turbine, as well as insurers.
Installing the turbine was an innovative development when it was passed around 20 years ago.
Mr Stobart said: “It is a sad end to this machine. It has been a great success in terms of what it generated. It produced an estimated 4.5 million units of electricity.
“It was ahead of its time. We did it purely because we saw energy costs going up and, apart from what happened on Friday, it has been a tremendous success in what it has generated and the costs saved.”
The collapse is likely to spark interest among windfarm campaigners and the renewable energy industry. Many turbines have a lifespan of 25 years.
Ruth Walsh, chairwoman of Communities Opposing Lamonby Turbines, said: “ It fell near a road when fortunately no-one was driving or walking along it.
“We are extremely worried about this as it raises big questions about turbine safety, especially as the ones proposed for our village are over 100 metres tall. This must give councillors something to think about when they are considering future proposals.”
The British Wind Energy Association says last Friday’s collapse appears to be the first in its 29-year history where foul play is not involved.
By Kelly Eve
4 January 2008
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