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Anger As Wind Turbine Crashes To Earth For Second Time

The Northern Times

A publicly funded, £37,000 wind turbine sited next to a community hall in north-west Sutherland has crashed to the ground for a second time.

The mangled remains of the turbine blades and gearbox.

The mangled remains of the turbine blades and gearbox.

The tower of the 15-metre high turbine at remote Rhue Stoer Hall, north of Lochinver, snapped in two last Thursday, sending the gear box housing and blades tumbling to the ground. It is the second such structural failure in two years.

The turbine was reported to be “askew” and making a “funny noise” just prior to the crash.

Members of the Rhue Stoer Community Association, which runs the hall, were remaining tight lipped about the latest occurrence. But the incident has reignited concerns about siting small-scale wind turbines close to public buildings, particularly schools.

Stoer resident and turbine safety campaigner Dr Stephanie James has now renewed her call to Highland Council to take down the turbine at Stoer Primary School, and others.

She warned: “Highland Council is being negligent in maintaining that these turbines are safe when clearly they are not safe. It is an accident waiting to happen.”

The turbine's mast snapped in half, sending the housing and blades crashing to the ground.

The turbine’s mast snapped in half, sending the housing and blades crashing to the ground.

Planning consent was granted in November 2010 to site a 6kw wind turbine on a rise to the south-east of Rhue Stoer Hall and 90 metres from the B869.

Opponents claimed the turbine would be visually intrusive and a noise nuisance.

But hall managers went ahead and erected the French made Eoltec Scirocco wind turbine in mid 2011, with funding from public sources. Just six months later, on Hogmanay 2012, one of the turbine blades flew off, landing several metres away from the tower. The remaining blade crashed to the ground later.

Engineers from the manufacturing firm travelled to Stoer and took away the mangled remains for investigation, the outcome of which is not known.

A heavier duty gearbox and blades was eventually fitted to the existing tower and the turbine began operating again in the middle of 2012.

But its failure was the precursor to concerns being raised over the safety of Highland Council’s programme to install small-scale Proven WT6000 turbines at schools at a cost of £25,000 each.

In February 2012, worried north councillors refused to sanction planning applications for two new turbines at schools in Inverness and Nairn.

Three months later the authority gave in to mounting pressure and shut down all 16 of its school turbines pending individual risk assessments by independent consultants.

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