In the last week of January 2013, the south west of England saw the collapse of two wind turbines, both of them erected as recently as 2010.
First, in the early hours of Sunday 27th January 2013, a 35m (115ft) high wind turbine collapsed in 50 mph gale force winds at East Ash farm in Bradworth near Holsworthy in North Devon.
Wales -based Dulas Ltd, which erected the turbine in 2010 is investigating the incident.
Then, on the night of Wednesday 30th January 2013, a 17m (55ft) high wind turbine fell down on private land at Winsdon Farm in North Petherwin, near Launceston in Cornwall.
Developer Gaia-Wind said that his company was investigating the collapse.
Planning permission was sought at the end of November 2009 for two such turbines to be erected at Winsdon Farm and they were erected in 2010.
The plot thickens.
While the first and obvious assumption was that the gale force winds had brought down the £250,000 Bradworth turbine in Devon – which is locally very unpopular – bolts were discovered missing from its base and may have been deliberately removed.
Officials believe it could have been sabotaged by anti-turbine protestors.
However, these are not domestic scale bolts and protesters would need to be have been very well equipped to remove bolts designed to support a 115ft high structure with moving turbine blades at the top of it. In a relatively new wind farm, imperfect initial installation must also be a possibility.
With the Cornish turbine coming down shortly afterwards, that too is being investigated for any sign of sabotage.
If these sites were not sabotaged, the public will be alarmed by the instability of these machines,
Indeed, Energy Secretary, Ed Davey acted quickly to remind the industry to its responsibilities.
On 31st January he warned wind farm operators to ensure the safety of their equipment, saying that wind farm operators were as responsible for safety as are firms operating other forms of industrial site.
A worrying form of renewable energy – unlikely to concern Scotland
The sunny south west of England is seeing a form of renewable energy generation unlikely to feature in the mix in Scotland – but of general concern in terms of land use.
There are huge subsidies paid for the installation of photo-voltaic [PV] solar energy panels – and developers have not been slow to take advantage of these by installing and applying for permissions for massive solar energy farms.
The here is that while such installations are very low profile, they are both land-hungry and inefficient.
At the end of December 2010, German-owned Kronos Solar, applied for permission for a 36.5-acre solar farm at North Petherwin, near Launceston in Cornwall, near Winsdon Farm where the turbine came down last week.
The generous tax-payer funded feed-in tariffs for photo-voltaic (PV) energy puts landowners in a winning position; and the solar farm developers, as with Kronos Solar, are expecting huge profits. Kronos Solar’s website encourages potential investors thus: ‘The risk-return relationship of PV is unrivaled (sic). With the Government’s backing of the Feed-In-Tariff, revenues and hence returns for investors come state guaranteed.’ [Ed: our emphasis.]
However, in terms of efficient green energy, the 5MW predicted output at the North Petherwin solar farm – consented by Cornwall Council on 27th January 2011 - is only just over half of that generated by a nearby wind farm at Delabole.
It is not just Scotland that is experiencing a government-driven push for renewables at all costs, fuelled by financial enticements that will be paid for by consumers in much higher energy bills.