Safety concerns grow over location of wind turbines

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The finding of part of a turbine blade on a road near a Borders wind farm and the collapse of a 100m turbine in Northern Ireland have raised safety concerns about wind farms.

Turbines at Longpark wind farm near Stow are turning again after EDF Energy Renewables established that the component found next to the road had not fallen from any of the turbines but was in fact one of a number of being stored on the ground.

An EDF spokesperson said: “EDF Energy Renewables believes that it is unlikely that this spoiler, one of those being stored at ground level, could have found its way to the road side due to the wind and will continue to investigate how it could have been displaced.”

Of more concern to those living near Drone Hill wind farm on Coldingham Moore and Crystal Rig in the Lammermuirs is that a 100m turbine at Screggagh wind farm, Northern Ireland, collapsed at the beginning of the month. The turbine was made by Nordex, who also made the turbines at the two Berwickshire wind farms.

Borders MSP John Lamont has lodged a written question to the Scottish Government asking for a review of current rules regarding turbines being located close to public roads to product the public and road users.

He said: “Guidance already exists about how close turbines should be to public roads, but it is unclear and often ignored.

“This is why I’m calling on the Scottish Government to review the current rules with a view to ensuring that no new turbines are allowed to be closer to public roads than is safe and that existing turbines are not inappropriately located.”

George Matthews, a Fellow of the RICS and retired Scottish Government building standards adviser who lives near the Drone Hill wind farm, has had lengthy discussions with the Scottish Health and Safety Executive about whether members of the public are in danger when walking near turbines.

The public footpath across Coldingham Moor was redirected to allow the erection of wind turbines and it now weaves through the wind farm.

“Due to many very bad planning decisions a large number of wind farms now traverse public rights of way and national walking/rambling routes,” said George.

“These collapses and damaged turbines are now proving that I am correct in that the public must not be permitted to walk near wind turbines as they are very dangerous.

“The government and planners do not have any regulation re separation distance from public roads, houses, or other places where the public frequent.”

The 100m high wind turbine which collapsed in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland was made by Nordex UK, who also have turbines at Crystal Rig, in the Lammermuirs and Drone Hill on Coldingham Moor.

There are 25 Nordex turbines between 60-80m at Crystal Rig phase 1 and 1a (owned by Fred Olsen Renewables Ltd). Other Crystal Rig turbines are manufactured by Siemens. Drone Hill wind farm has 22 Nordex turbines 76 metres high (jointly owned by Your energy and PM Renewables).

At the Screggagh wind farm in County Tyrone the remaining seven turbines have been shut down while manufacturers investigate what went wrong.

Doreen Walker, director of Screggagh Windfarm Ltd, said: “We are currently investigating the circumstances that led to the collapse of the turbine,” adding that officials were working closely with Nordex UK.

A spokesperson for Nordex said that from their initial findings “there are no reasons to indicate that any of the other turbines have any problems, and we are working on getting the wind farm back online as soon as possible”.

Mark Rowley, chairman of Lammermuir Community Council, said: “With so many turbines installed it seems likely, that as the machinery ages, we can expect to see more examples​ of damage and structural failures. With so much industrial machinery installed in the Lammermuirs it seems inevitable that incidents will occur here too.

“That isn’t a reason to prevent development, but it is now time for developers and decision makers to recognise the risks and ensure wind farms are designed so roads, walking routes and recreational areas are safe for those who use them.

“The recent total collapse of a huge 100m Nordex turbine, similar to many installed here at Crystal Rig wind farm, has caused significant local concern as the Herring Road Heritage Path passes through the site.

“Other wind farms have turbines immediately adjacent to recreational routes and there seems to be little guidance or advice on how to site them safely despite the turbines becoming larger and more numerous.

“Our community council is writing to Scottish Borders Council and Scottish Ministers to ask them to consider guidance that turbines should be situated at a safe distance from walking routes and roads.

“Research suggests that blade ice and disintegrating machinery can be thrown for a considerable distance.”