A solution may be on the horizon for owners of Proven P35-2 wind turbines in Shetland nearly four months after they were ordered to shut down their machines following catastrophic weld failures elsewhere in Scotland.
The Microgeneration Certification Scheme, the body that decides which small renewable devices qualify for government power generation subsidies, said this week a way forward had been identified for the flawed £60,000 machines and agreement on the solution should be reached within weeks.
The MCS said: “Once the agreed solution has been finalised MCS will instruct the installation companies to advise their customers of the remedial work that will be required to restart the turbines.”
The long-awaited breakthrough for P35-2 owners, including the handful in Shetland, follows a meeting last week between the MCS’ certification body and the various parties involved with the turbines.
However with hundreds of the machines in existence in Scotland and elsewhere it remains to be seen when a turbine installer will be in a position to attend to the out-of-action machines in Shetland.
The 12.1 kiloWatt P35-2 was suspended from MCS certification on 23rd September after three spectacular main shaft failures. The drastic technical problem brought down Proven Energy itself followed by two of its main installers, Icon Energy and Shetland Wind Power.
Proven was later bought by the large Irish firm Kingspan but it washed its hands of the old company’s turbine customers.
Shetland Wind Power’s customer base and some other assets were bought by VG Energy, an Ayrshire-based turbine installer which has been working on a solution to the P35-2 shaft problem.
A new company, still called Shetland Wind Power, has been set up. VG Energy’s founders, farmers Jim Paterson and Stephen Hamilton, also formed two other new companies called Shetland Turbines and Shetland Renewables.
VG has ignored several approaches from The Shetland Times for information to provide to its readers.
Until the P35-2 solution is agreed and applied to the turbines the MCS has advised that the brake should be kept on to keep them out of action, although some have been running from time to time since the shutdown was ordered last year.
The news of movement on the P35-2 problem was welcomed by SNP Highlands and Islands MSP Jean Urquhart this week. She said: “I am delighted that progress is now being made and that these machines should soon be working again.
“There are many of these turbines in Shetland and a number of owners have contacted me regarding the difficulties they are facing.”
Each owner has been losing potentially thousands of pounds a month from not being able to claim subsidy, enjoy free electricity or sell excess power into the Shetland grid.
As well as problems with the rotor heads there now seems to be question marks over the towers that the P35-2 turbines are built on. A machine owned by Norman and Evelyn Leask at Snarness, near West Burrafirth, suffered a catastrophic failure of its tower during a north-westerly storm at the end of last year. The steel tower broke in two, causing the turbine to crash to the ground.
Another leading turbine company, Evoco, is having to beef-up its 10kW turbine designs after suffering machine failures during gales in Yorkshire. There has been a problem with a rotational bearing which causes blades to snap off. Owners were told to shut them down and Evoco pledged to compensate them for lost feed-in tariff subsidy.