Brake failure to blame for collapsing of wind turbine

Wind turbine near Temple Hall, Coldingham which fell over in the wind.
Wind turbine near Temple Hall, Coldingham which fell over in the wind.

THE Coldingham wind turbine brought to the ground due to safety fears last week suffered mechanical failure, according to police and the company which installed it.

Berwick-based Maden Design and Build insists the turbine at Bogan Green farm had been installed and tested correctly, but a controlled collapse was enforced after its precarious movement in the strong wind persuaded police and safety officials to close a busy road and evacuate a number of houses.

The turbine had been in operation for just over a fortnight.

A spokesperson for the police revealed that the turbine had “suffered brake system failure and had been freewheeling,” due to the strong winds.

Maden Design and Build managing director Simon Maden explained: “It looks like the turbine’s brake mechanisms failed. All parties decided a controlled collapse was the way to go. If we ever found ourselves in the same situation again I wouldn’t do anything differently.

“Things were made more difficult by the fact the turbine manufacturers are no longer in business. We were only alerted to this recently and it meant we couldn’t go to them for any advice. I am satisfied the turbine was installed correctly and properly tested.”

Police were first made aware of the situation at Bogan Green after farm owner Alan Henry noticed the blades travelling at a much faster speed than normal at around 4am on Wednesday, December 7. After talks with Lothian and Borders Police and health and safety officials, the turbine was brought to ground just over a day later.

In the intervening period, police took the decision to shut the A1107 from Croftslaw Caravan Park down to Lumsden Farm. A 200 metre cordon was also put in place, meaning nearby residents were advised to vacate their homes.

Mr Henry believes taking the turbine down was the safest thing to do. He told ‘The Berwickshire News’: “The rotars were going daft, something had obviously gone wrong with the turbine’s gearing and it was becoming very dangerous.

“We were worried one of the blades might come down. We were made aware of the police’s decision to close the A1107 and were told that we would have to pay any costs should the road need to be kept open any further.

“So it was decided that, with heavier winds forecast for later on on Thursday, taking it down was the measure to take and it didn’t take very long. Safety executives have taken the top of the turbine away for examination and we should find out exactly what went wrong in the next couple of weeks.”

George Matthews, a local resident strongly against the approved windfarm at neighbouring Drone Hill, said although not on the same scale as the turbines at the controversial development, the incident involving the one at Bogan Green raised a number of concerns.

“Myself, former councillor George Russell and community council chair Rhona Goldie fought a long battle against Drone Hill for reasons like this. Once erected, the turbines there will stand at 76 metres from ground to blade tip but at only 80 odd metres from the A1107, will be closer to the road than the Bogan Green one.

“I’ve travelled all over the world and seen windfarms in many different countries but I’ve never heard of turbines being sited so close to a road.”

Fortunately, there wasn’t a repeat of an incident in north Ayrshire on the same day when a 100 metre turbine caught fire.

Renewable energy experts have dismissed an incident where the turbine at Ardrossan Wind Farm had to be destroyed after it burst into flames as “a freak occurrence.”