A 115ft wind turbine which collapsed last week may have been sabotaged, officials have claimed as it was revealed that a second has been brought down fewer than 20 miles away.
An investigation into the collapse of the first turbine in Bradworthy, Devon, during a 50mph gale last weekend has revealed that bolts are missing from its base.
The turbine was initially thought to have been brought down by the wind, despite being designed to withstand winds of up to 116mph, but the new evidence could suggest a case of foul play, councillors said.
It came as a second, 60ft turbine was spotted “lying crumpled on the ground” just 18 miles away in Cornwall, on a farm owned by the family of a Lib Dem councillor.
Officials from Dulas, which installed the £250,000 turbine at East Ash Farm in Bradworthy in July 2010, and Health and Safety Executive representatives are investigating what caused it to collapse last weekend.
Local residents had campaigned fiercely against the installation of the Endurance Wind Power E-3120 50kW turbine, which was the first of its kind to be erected in the country, claiming it would spoil the landscape.
Margaret Coles, the chairman of Bradworthy Parish Council, revealed that an examination of the turbine had found that a number of bolts were absent from its base.
She said: “We know the bolts are gone but don’t know what caused it. It was a windy night – we do suffer lots of high winds but you would have thought the structure would cope with that.
“People that end of the parish were woken up by the crash it made when it came down. Some people think the bolts had been removed from the turbine which is why it was brought down.
“Others have said they saw charring on the turbine so they think it caught fire or was set fire to. We don’t know what happened and we want to find out.”
Bradworthy Parish Councillor Keith Tomlin added: “The short answer is that these turbines are designed to withstand winds of 116mph and the winds for this area for Saturday night were 50mph.”
But a spokesman for Torridge District Council which oversees Bradworthy, said it would not investigate the incident because the turbine is not a building.
Experts who carried out the initial examination of the toppled tower had suggested that winds had been so strong the blades span out of control, causing the whole structure to fall.
Dulas, the installer, said the turbine had not caught fire and claimed the company had never experienced a similar incident but would not comment further.
On Friday the second turbine was discovered to have collapsed at Winsdon Farm, in North Petherwin, Cornwall, which is owned by the family of local councillor Adam Paynter.
The 11kw Gaia turbine is one of two on the farm.
A spokesman for Gaia-Wind said: “There has been an incident where a turbine tower has been damaged. No other injury or damage is involved and we are investigating the cause.”
Meanwhile there are two applications pending to erect 16 new turbines on the two highest points on Cornwall’s Bodmin Moor, known as the “Twin Peaks”.
Campaigners fear the wind farm will “interrupt and destroy” the remote beauty spot, famous for its Iron Age and Bronze Age settlements.