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Green firm’s fatal flaw: ‘Blades liable to fly off our turbines’

A Scottish renewable energy company went into receivership with the loss of 55 jobs yesterday as hundreds of wind-turbine owners were warned to shut down the company’s machines amid fears that the blades could fly off.

An estimated 500 people in Scotland, mainly farmers, are believed to operate the small wind turbine, manufactured by Ayrshire-based company Proven Energy, which is at the centre of the major safety alert.

And engineers have warned that the potentially catastrophic shaft defect could cause built-in braking systems to fail and the turbine blades to fly off in a worst case scenario.

Proven Energy had already suspended all sales of the wind turbine earlier this week. Yesterday, it was announced that liquidation experts KPMG had been called in by the directors of the financially troubled company.

The move comes the day after Pelamis, another Scottish renewable energy firm, announced it was ready to seek financial backing to manufacture commercial- scale wave farms off the coast of Scotland.

A spokesman for KPMG said: “Blair Nimmo and Tony Friar of KPMG have been appointed joint receivers of Proven Energy at the request of the company’s directors.

“The company recently suffered a significant setback following the identification of a defect in its P35-2 model, which although management believes is minor and can be repaired, resulted in advising customers to temporarily cease using it. As a result of the product issue and the inability to obtain necessary additional funding, the directors had no option but to cease trading.”

The company has a manufacturing facility in Stewarton and an administration and design office in East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire, and employs 75 staff across both sites.

Mr Nimmo the head of restructuring for KPMG in Scotland, said: “Unfortunately, with limited manufacturing taking place, 55 staff have been made redundant with immediate effect. We have retained 20 employees to assist us and prepare the business for sale.”

Mr Nimmo added: “Proven Energy is a well-known brand in the small wind sector having been established for more than 30 years.

Although Proven has achieved substantial turnover growth in recent years, the company has made significant losses as it focused on product development, making it difficult for the business to cope financially with the cost of the product failure

“We are hopeful that a sale of all or parts of the business and assets can be achieved and would encourage any interested parties to contact us as soon as possible. We are working with government agencies to ensure the redundant employees obtain as much assistance as possible.”

Earlier, a spokesman for the National Farmers’ Union Scotland revealed that about 500 of the generators at the centre of the safety alert had been erected in Scotland.

He said: “We are urging all those who have installed Proven 35-2 wind turbines to heed the manufacturer’s advice and place their wind turbines on brake as soon as it is safe to do so. The news that a major turbine manufacturer has gone into receivership is a blow to the renewables industry in Scotland and leaves many farmers who have erected or plan to erect Proven turbines uncertain of the way forward.

We already have a dialogue with one major supplier who hopes to be in a position to issue more information next week.”One of the farmers affected by the safety alert, Fred Hendry, who farms near Alvah in Banffshire, said he had been using the wind turbine since June last year.

He said: “It was a lot of money for me, roughly about £50,000. I’ve a lot of questions about what happens now as it is supposed to be under guarantee.”