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Wind turbine comes down in Bradworthy as high winds strike North Devon

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 30, 2013

  • A 35-metre turbine has collapsed near Holsworthy, leaving the tower lying on the ground. The owners have promised a full investigation into what happened. Picture by Mike Southern

  • A 35-metre turbine has collapsed near Holsworthy, leaving the tower lying on the ground. The owners have promised a full investigation into what happened PICTURE: Mike Southon

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A ten-storey-high wind turbine which came crashing down into farmland appears to have caught fire before toppling over, an expert said.

The 35-metre tower toppled over on private land at East Ash Farm in Bradworthy on Sunday, less than three years after it was commissioned.

The company which installed the equipment, Dulas, yesterday said no-one had been injured or put at risk by the incident and launched a "full root-cause analysis" investigation.

Bob Barfoot, North Devon chairman of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and an expert on turbines, said photographs showed the tower had been turned into a "mangled, blackened wreck" with melted blades.

Keith Tomlin, a parish council spokesman, said the turbine came down in "unexceptional weather" and claimed there was concern over plans to site an identical model near a road.

But forecasters said winds were gusting up to gale force at the time, and a fast-moving weather front may well have provided the "ingredients" for a lightning strike.

The £250,000 turbine – an Endurance Wind Power E-3120 50kW device – was the first model of its kind to be erected in the country, and comes with a five-year warranty.

Some industry sources doubted reports of a fire.

Mr Barfoot, a planning consultant who assists local campaigns against turbines, said the Canadian-built generator is a "down-wind" device, which swings like a weather vane as the wind changes direction with the blades to the rear.

He said the model was "crude" compared to more advanced, motor-driven wind-facing machines, adding that it should have shut down when winds became too strong.

"It is clear from the photo that the turbine caught fire," he added. "The fire damage may have destroyed the control system preventing the turbine from shutting down in the strong winds.

"The blades would have rotated beyond the allowable maximum speed and destroyed the whole turbine."

Phil Ashmore, who took a photograph and is currently fighting plans for five new turbines at Biteford Farm near his home, said "questions needed to be asked" about the safety of turbines.

Charlie Powell, a forecaster with the Exeter-based Met Office, said winds had gusted up to 50mph in the early hours of Sunday, readings at Chivenor and Bodmin show.

He said: "The weather front could have provided the ingredients for thunderstorms."

Bradworthy parish councillor Keith Tomlin said: "We are relieved to note that no-one was injured but had this happened in daytime there was a chance of serious injury to workers on the farm where it was located or to the public on the road nearby.

"Of greater concern is that Torridge District Council have recently approved the erection of a second turbine of the same size and manufacture at this location that would be closer to the public road.

"This incident must be a wake-up call for Torridge District Council in their policy towards wind turbines and until the result of any investigation into this incident has taken place they would be prudent to halt the erection of any other wind turbines in the district."

In a statement, Dulas chief executive officer Sanjay Bowry said: "We can reassure the local community that due to the isolated location of the turbine, no one was put at risk. We are currently working hard to establish the precise cause of the incident.

"Our technical team is one of the most experienced in the UK and they are working alongside the turbine manufacturer to conduct a full root-cause analysis investigation.

"We will continue to keep communication open and provide updates as and when we have more information."

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2 comments

  • johndavies  |  February 01 2013, 7:47PM

    Sorry Ian, you are mistaken……. you assume that 50 kW will be generated "when (the turbine ) working normally as intended," BUT According to OFGEM figs :- A typical 50kW wind turbine has a production factor between 14-26% so on average will generate just....10kW, enough for a large house or a farm. ( 3 kettles continuous! ) What a typical 50kW wind turbine will earn from FIT subsidies (about £545/mth), that's cash taken directly from me & you via our energy bills. see figs here - http://tinyurl.com/awzd64o look around that site, the amounts are mind blowing.

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  • IanMacKinlay  |  January 31 2013, 4:20AM

    Fifty kilowatts,, 50kW, eh? £250,000. If you were not going to receive subsidies from ordinary people, including poor people, from their electricity bills, to pay for one of these, would you spend £250,000 on one? No. Of course not. Nobody in their right mind would do so. Most kitchens in the UK have an electric kettle rated at about 3kW. One of these turbines, when working normally as intended, (when the wind is not too fast or so slow, that it cannot produce any electricity at all), would be generating enough electricity to run just under seventeen 3kW electric kettles. It doesn't take a wizz-kid to see that the economics here are completely divorced from reality. 50kW divided by 3kW equals sixteen and two third kettles.

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