Worrying failure (Angela Hunt)

John Robertson’s report of a windmill rotor head becoming detached from its mounting and travelling a considerable distance due to a weld failure raises important considerations around the safety of placement of on-land wind turbines in Shetland.

Fortunately in this case the turbine head did not hit a human being or an animal and its displacement has been attributed to a manufacturing defect, an accident which could occur with a turbine placed anywhere in the world. However, the potential for public harm from faulty and damaged turbines is higher in Shetland than elsewhere.

Shetland’s unique atmospheric conditions caused by narrow landmass and sea fogs give all metal parts a regular bath in salt water and the speed of advanced metal corrosion is a well-known aspect of living here; from the quickening rust on car bodies, the seizure of locks to the beautiful colours of rusting tin sheds.

Manufacturers of offshore wind turbines manage seawater corrosion through the application of protective coatings and regular checks for metal fatigue on turbine fixings, rotor blades and seams.

Development proposal details which have been shared with the public too date for large scale on land wind turbines in Shetland do not evidence consideration of the cost of protection in atmospheric conditions which could considerably shorten the working life of the turbines, or the cost of substantial public liability insurance for the compensation of employees and members of the public where metal corrosion leads to an accident.

Primary school children have been taken up to see the Burradale turbines while they are shiny and new and we are informed of regular checks on the turbines profitability.

It would be reassuring to hear that there are also to be regular checks by an independent metallurgist for any signs of wear or corrosion on the rotor blade mountings as the turbines age and the extent of the public liability insurance in place, both here and in the Viking Energy proposal.

Angela Hunt


Add Your Comment
  • D Johnson

    • September 26th, 2011 4:28

    Now I’m neither for or against the Viking proposal but for the sake of reasoned debate (and I know doubt hear some of you scoff at the notion on such a topic!) let’s try to clear up a few things.

    The rotors in question are a completely different design than those proposed for the VE development.

    Why would the potential for public harm be any greater in Shetland than say Spain, Holland or Denmark? These countries all have windmills in areas close to the coast, I know I’ve worked on ships that have transited past them all!

    Yes corrosion is a serious factor and I have no doubt that when the wind turbine manufacturer was setting out their proposal all this would have been factored in. A fully auditable maintenance program, including condition monitoring, is, nowadays, the norm, it’s certainly is anywhere I have ever worked.

    Location of turbines or anything else for that matter is subject to approval by the Planning department who are bound by strict guidelines, ask anyone who’s tried building a house recently the hoops they have had to jump through.

    Public liability insurance? You can’t even legally operate without this. And why if all the proper codes / regulations are being complied with would the premiums be any higher for a project such as this as for any other?

    I understand and assume you are against the idea of a wind farm but your points here are pretty thin. This failure of a particular design of wind turbine is not the golden bullet you may be looking for!

  • ian Tinkler

    • September 26th, 2011 14:54

    Mr. Johnson, blade failure is hardly rare. The video below is a Vesta turbine failure (Burradale turbine type). Strange fact but true Wind turbine construction and failures have killed more people than Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear accidents combined. Food for thought?
    References: IAEA. (http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/tsunamiupdate01.html)(IAEA. http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/focus/chernobyl/) (Wind farm accident statistics. http://www.caithnesswindfarms.co.uk/page4.htm) One reason why Denmark stopped onshore wind farm development (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqEccgR0q-o.) . World Health Organisation: (http://www.who.int/ionizing_radiation/chernobyl/en/)

  • Angela Hunt

    • September 26th, 2011 22:15

    Thank you for your agreement that corrosion is a serious factor in windfarm turbines and for the need for a fully auditable maintenance program with condition monitoring.
    On your next point though I am very sorry to inform you that in fact the Planning department objected to the proposed Viking Energy windfarm on environmental grounds. Their recommendations were overturned by SIC councillors; an action which stopped a public enquiry and the hope of an opportunity to ask a very simple question – a question which can be asked aside from the personalities of councillors or company directors, or of the promise of riches beyond dreams of avarice quite simply:
    Are you in favour of 127, 145 metre high metal turbines with in all probability the largest open plan building site in Europe being erected bang in the middle of the Shetland countryside.
    Yes or No.


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