New Wave of Turbine Terror: Brits Brace as Giant Fans Keep Collapsing

TurbineBlade-OklahomaTornado

Liberty has its price. Fortunately, this blade’s quest for “freedom”
didn’t kill any kids at this Oklahoma kindy. This time …

A while back we covered what the wind industry and its parasites call “component liberation” in our post – Life in the “throw zone” which included video of a Vestas’ turbine “liberating” its components.

That led to a retort from an employee from AGL’s Macarthur wind farm disaster – calling himself “Prowind” – about the exploding turbine – “that turbine in the video is not accident, they purposely let it self destruct.  That is NEVER going to happen at MacArthur.”

We dealt with “Prowind” in our post – Logic: not found on other planets? – which included a serious scientific study into the distances blades are likely to travel during “component liberation”.  The study dealt with over 37 “component liberation” events, recording blade throw distances of up to 1,600 m: that study was completed in 2007 – there have been many more bids for blade “freedom” since then.

turbinedutchbladeaccident

Dutch freedom seeker aims to avoid trouble by hiding in hedge.

And we covered a turbine liberating its components in a schoolyard at Caithness, Scotland in this post: Remember the days of the old school yard?

We also covered – yet another component liberation – in our spoof post – IWTs or WMDs?

The obvious irony and sarcasm in that post was lost on greentards – a humourless bunch at the best of times – which prompted us to explain the difference between the literal and the figurative – in this post – It’s all about the costs, stupid.

turbine blade donegal

Another dash for freedom. This time in Donegal.

Not only are giant fans determined to “liberate” their blades all over the countryside, schools and homes, these friendly little puppies are just as keen to collapse, laying waste to anything in their path.

IMG_6772

Turbine takes a nap: Starfish Hill, South Australia.

Here’s a wrap up from the UK on the terror and havoc being caused by collapsing turbines.

The scandal of UK’s death-trap wind turbines:
The Mail on Sunday
Simon Trump
14 September 2014

A turbine built for 115mph winds felled in 50mph gusts. Dozens more affected by cost-cutting. Why residents living in their shadow demand to know – are they safe?

  • Health and Safety Executive release reports on collapsed wind turbines
  • Causes were manufacturing faults and basic installation mistakes
  • Campaigners believe the risk of turbines collapsing will continue to grow

It was just before midnight on a winter’s night last year. Outside in the gusting January wind it was freezing, but Bill Jarvis was sitting by the fire with his wife Annie and a few relatives in their cottage on the North Devon moors.

And that’s when they heard it: a tremendous ‘crack’, louder than a thunderclap.

‘We rushed outside wondering what on earth had happened,’ recalls Bill. ‘We thought perhaps a plane had crashed it was such a loud noise. ‘We couldn’t see flames or anything burning, even though we peered out in the direction it had come from. There was nothing else though, no more noise or aftershocks.’

Deafeningly loud it might have been, but what the Jarvis family had heard – as they were to discover the following morning – had taken place at Bradworthy, a mile away. It was the noise of a 115ft-high wind turbine crashing to the ground.

turbine collapse devon

Giant fan takes a final dive in Devon.

‘It’s pretty terrifying stuff,’ says Mr Jarvis. ‘I’m no fan of the things and this has just added to my worries. Just think what could have happened. It sends a shiver down your spine.’

He is not the only one feeling nervous about the march of the giant metal windmills across the British landscape.

This week, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) produced two reports – one into the catastrophic failure of the Bradworthy turbine and another into the collapse of a turbine in the next county, Cornwall, just three nights later.

And its conclusions are not merely unsettling, but have frightening implications for wind turbines and their safety right across the country.

The turbines in Devon and Cornwall came down when the wind was blowing at barely 50mph, despite the fact that they are supposed to withstand blasts of just over 115mph.

And, as the HSE concluded, the causes were manufacturing faults and basic mistakes in the way they were installed. The errors have already been replicated elsewhere in the country, as the two reports make clear, and could affect dozens – if not hundreds – more of the giant towers.

It is hardly encouraging to learn that the HSE reports were not published in a normal sense, but were available only on request and in redacted form.

They have come to light now only through Freedom of Information (FoI) requests lodged by a number of concerned residents.

Dr Philip Bratby, from CPRE Devon, believes the risk of collapse will continue to grow as long as the wind industry is allowed to operate behind a wall of secrecy.

A retired physicist, who formerly worked in nuclear energy, he says: ‘Safety standards in my line of work were paramount. We constantly monitored, tested and maintained equipment but this does not seem the case with turbines.

‘These two failures were catastrophic. The towers came crashing down with great force from a great height.

‘It was only down to luck it happened in the night and no people or animals were injured or killed.

‘The wind industry is very secretive about everything it does. It won’t publicise any definitive information about accidents so it is impossible to make an independent assessment of the risks.’

Dr Bratby lives at Rackenford, high on the edge of Exmoor, where there has also been a proliferation of turbines.

‘I am not convinced that we are learning from the bad experiences and feeding those lessons back into the education of designers and constructors because the industry is growing so rapidly,’ he says.

‘The size of these turbines seems to keep on increasing and I believe the dangers will increase accordingly. The bigger the turbine that fails, the bigger the potential for disaster and death.’

Turbine towers are supposedly secured by lowering them on to a series of foundation rods that emerge vertically from a concrete foundation.

These are levelled by the adjustment of bottom nuts below a flange at the base and then fixed with another set of nuts above the base.

All the exposed metal, including the rods and the nuts, is then encased in grout which protects it and spreads the stresses from any movement in the turbine.

Yet as these groundbreaking HSE reports show, not only were some of the parts faulty, two different sets of sub-contractors made the same basic – possibly cost-cutting – errors. And the result was that the metal monsters were not secure at all.

In the incident at East Ash Farm, Bradworthy, on January 27, 2013 – the one heard by Mr Jarvis – an E3120 model, made by Canadian-based Endurance, was found to have been installed with the wrong configuration of nuts at its base.

This upset the ‘loadings’, or balance, of the tower. The implication is that it wasn’t level. To compound the problem, the contractors who installed it had failed to use structural-grade grout to seal the rods and bolts from the worst of the weather and had used a ‘cosmetic’ compound instead.

The HSE reports reveal that the same faulty configuration of nuts had been to blame at Wattlesborough, near Shrewsbury in Shropshire, the previous year when another E3120 collapsed.

To date, Endurance has erected 300 of the E3120s throughout the United Kingdom.

The UK arm of the company says it has inspected all of them and carried out urgent repairs on 29 of the towers.

A different type of turbine fell at Winsdon Farm, North Petherwin, Cornwall, on January 30. This was a G133, manufactured by Gaia-Wind, originally a Danish firm.

This time there was a fault with the components, resulting in a failure in the foundation rods concreted into its base. But again, it had been badly installed with a lack of grout. As the HSE inspector concluded, there was ‘a lack of resilience to the fatigue loading within the securing arrangement… and poor fatigue strength in the securing components’.

The collapse of another G133 turbine at Otley, near Leeds, in April 2013 occurred in identical circumstances. Again, the securing rods were substandard. Once again, they had not been properly grouted in place.

As Dr Bratby points out, the footings and securings, which are difficult to inspect when encased in concrete and grout, are critical because they are subject to such huge and varying forces.

‘Over time they clearly degrade to the point of failure,’ he says. ‘We should be asking ourselves whether we are at a tipping point as the first-generation technology is exposed and compromised.’

Dr Bratby is frustrated at the lack of risk assessments undertaken when looking at sites.

He says: ‘I accept that the dangers from wind turbines located on farms without public access and remote from public rights of way are probably acceptable.

‘That is not always the case. They have been located close to roads and railways, at workplaces, in schools, hospitals and parks without any formal assessment of the dangers. I think that is unacceptable.’

His views are shared by fellow campaigner Alan Dransfield, from Exeter, who helped to mastermind the FoI application.

‘These reports took the best part of a year and several thousand pounds to compile, and the HSE decided to investigate because of the extensive media coverage and widespread public concern,’ Mr Dransfield says.

‘I’m delighted they did because look what they’ve found. Without doubt there is an urgent need for a more proactive stance with regard to the wind-turbine industry. It clearly can’t police itself.’

Taken together, there are 380 E3120 and GI33 towers. Of these, four are known to have collapsed, while repairs were necessary in 39 others to prevent potential further collapses.

Meanwhile, an as yet undisclosed number have further problems with the way they are bolted down, according to the HSE, and need repairing as soon as possible.

Revealing as they are, however, the two new reports deal with only a small minority of British turbines: there are 6,500 of differing design and manufacture across the country, and when it comes to problems with collapse or faulty installation, the public is wholly in the dark.

Figures from Caithness Windfarm Information Forum, a wind-turbine monitoring website, show that structural failure is the third most common major fault, behind blade failure and fire.

It has recorded an average of 149 accidents worldwide every year between 2009 and 2013 but believes this to be the ‘tip of the iceberg’ as it relies on scanning the internet for reports of such incidents.

‘The trend is as expected – as more turbines are built, more accidents occur,’ says a spokesman. ‘The numbers will continue upwards until the HSE helps force significant change.

‘In particular, the public should be protected by declaring a minimum safe distance between new turbine developments and occupied houses and buildings.’

However, Chris Streatfeild, director of health and safety with Renewable UK, the industry trade association, believes that any fears of wind power are unfounded and the risks minimal and acceptable.

‘Manufacturers, installers and owners work hard to ensure that they meet extremely stringent health and safety standards,’ he says.

‘There’s a rigorous process, verified by independent bodies, to ensure strict installation standards and safe siting. That’s why problems are so rare.’

He adds: ‘When incidents do occur, it’s important to learn from them and implement any lessons fully and promptly. Any serious incident has to be reported to the HSE and we work closely with them to ensure high standards are maintained.

‘To put this into its proper context, no member of the public has ever been injured by a wind turbine. It’s unfortunate a handful of anti-wind campaigners are choosing to indulge in scaremongering.

‘Climate change is a real and pressing issue. When it comes to generating clean electricity, onshore wind is the most cost-effective way so we should be making the most of it.’

Meanwhile, at North Petherwin, the fallen wind turbine has now been resurrected. Indeed, landowner and Liberal Democrat councillor Adam Paynter has installed a second one alongside it. Mr Paynter declined to comment when contacted by The Mail on Sunday.
At Bradworthy, farmers Des and Vera Ludwell were also staying quiet about their windmill. A new turbine stands in the position of its collapsed predecessor, about 50 yards from the road. A second one is even closer, leaving little safety margin.

Councillor David Tomlin revealed there are 50 turbines within a six-mile radius of Bradworthy, a quiet market town, and a further 20 have been approved.

‘We are not anti-wind power as such,’ he says. ‘But there is a visual intrusion and residents who live close to turbines report a constant whooshing noise from blades. Most importantly, can we still be certain they are safe?

‘What happened here and in Cornwall and analysed in detail in these two reports should be a wake- up call. Perhaps we should halt the erection of further turbines pending an investigation of the industry as a whole.’
The Mail on Sunday

Wind power: ludicrously expensive; totally unreliable; utterly pointless and insanely dangerous – what’s not to like …

turbine collapse 9

Safe, clean and green? Yet another date with gravity …

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

Comments

  1. Sonia trist says:

    Dear Noel Dean,
    Some of the turbines at Cape Bridgewater are as close as 200-250m…..and this was acknowledged 5.5.2008.
    Always learning from you Noel.
    Sonia Trist
    Cape Bridgewater, Victoria.

  2. Alan M Dransfield says:

    It beggars belief that WT are now being installed adjacent to schools, dwellings etc.
    Notwithstanding the health hazards of WT. I am at a complete loss to understand the logic of installing a 50m WT in close proximity to a school or public building. The worst case scenario is the tower toppled over on the school or the blades come off.
    The energy company refer to ice shards as if they are talking about rice. Such ice “shards” might weigh as much as 30/40 kgs which could smash through the school roof.
    It is well known fact the UK WT do not meet with Lightning Standards hence school kids are being subjected to additional lightning threat via Lightning Flashover.
    So why have successive UK governments failed to establish a mandatory separation distance between schools, public buildings and Wind Turbines?

  3. All of these turbines will become more inefficient over time. Worse, maintenance will be unaffordable as wear and tear on bearings and gearboxes plus metal fatigue, will render them useless for only some future scrap value!

  4. Jackie Rovenksy says:

    The mess this industry has created in Australia is an example of how it has gained dominance around the world. There is no unified standard set for anything to do with it. Yes there are some standards which are shared by a few authorities, but there are many more which are completely different.
    This makes it easy for such things as safety to be forgotten. That each time a new larger turbine has been introduced it has been ignored and no one has ever sought extensive testing for safety, should things like failure of blades or fires in nacelles happen, or what is a safe setback distance from anything. let alone homes.

    We know the wind industry has hidden research showing noise these turbines produce and harm to humans, have they also hidden testing results on dangers associated with failures and fires? Common sense would tell you something so large with mechanical turning blades should not be allowed to be erected so close to homes, workplaces etc.

    So where are test/research results? Why have they never been asked for by the regulatory authorities?

    Yes the industry proudly sends plans of the engineering of their turbines in with their applications, and show what the capacity factor has been determined as, but where is the proof they are safe?

    That there’s inconsistent standards, planning regulations and no proof of their safety in the environments they are being placed has been over shadowed by the rush to install them, to meet some target without ever seeking information of how it could be achieved safely and at a cost effectively, is overlooked.

    Why is there no world or at least national standard for these things?

  5. David Mortimer says:

    I have two 1.75MWatt Vestas turbines on the farm, one within 50metres of the hay enclosure. It scares the hell out of me each time I have to go near the giant fans to get the hay.
    The cattle like to lie in the shade of the towers. If one of these towers were to liberate its components it would have the potential to wipe out at least half the herd in one fell swoop.
    If this were and industrial zone (and it should be classified as such), OH&S would have safety barriers and warning signs all over the place. So what is it that exempts these towers of tyranny?
    We sometimes experience “clear air mini tornadoes”. One about 12 years ago completely demolished a heavy duty steel hay shed on the farm that was in the path of the destructive winds. If the turbines had been built before that storm, I think there would be one less standing now. The storm lasted a few minutes. Such a shame it came too soon.

  6. Geoff McPherson says:

    I am sure that PROWIND at AGL would be appreciative of the update in events. You could send it both gift wrapped and signed with XXX.

  7. Vestas clearly puts itself above the law of common sense in other words their engineers are stupid. In Vestas Specification Manual [item no 950019V07 date 2008-05-05] page 5,

    “The Turbines can be placed in wind parks with a distance of at least 5 rotor diameters (450 m) between the wind turbines. For public safety it is recommended that a separation distance of 10 rotor diameters between turbines to eliminate the wake and turbulence affects on humans and animals because of compression and decompression affects, any wind farm turbine engineer would also be aware this would protect against wind turbine failure of wind turbines”.

    Only 10 per cent of Vestas turbines at Macarthur meet the 5 rotor dia separation requirement, which is no different to most other wind farm operations in Victoria. Most wind farms in Victoria are approved with shorter blades than what is actually installed. This breaches wind farm planning guidelines [Wind Resource Assessment in Australia – Planners Guide 2003}. It is also unethical conduct of the engineers involved, who appear to be nameless when documents are searched.

    Noel Dean

  8. Reblogged this on Wolsten and commented:
    I wonder how well engineered the monsters planned by Coronation Power in Rochdale on Rooley Moor Road will be. Scary stuff.

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