Safety fears at Hethel wind farm

PUBLISHED: 15:30 15 January 2009 | UPDATED: 14:50 14 July 2010

Renewable energy firm Ecotricity is being urged to put its planned wind farm at the Lotus test track at Hethel on hold after a blade sheered off one of its turbines in Lincolnshire.

Renewable energy firm Ecotricity is being urged to put its planned wind farm at the Lotus test track at Hethel on hold after a blade sheered off one of its turbines in Lincolnshire.

A turbine at Ecotricity's wind farm at Conisholme lost one 20m blade and another was badly damaged in a recent incident that UFO enthusiasts claimed was caused by a mystery aircraft. An investigation has been launched.

Colin Rudd, chairman of Bracon Ash and Hethel Parish Council said he is worried about the safety of Lotus workers, and local residents who visit the test track, if a similar incident were to happen when the new wind farm becomes operational.

“It raises very serious questions about the three turbines at Lotus. Certainly at the very least they should be putting it on hold until there is confirmation of what is happening to cause one of them to break,” he said.

The parish council was one of the objectors to the wind farm which was granted planning consent last July.

Mr Rudd added: “I do think Lotus needs support, particularly in these times, and we recognise they are a very important part of the community. The parish council did oppose the turbines, but we are not Nimbys and were in support of their engineering centre and the recent building they put up.

“Lotus has hundreds of employees and these turbines are so close. If one of the blades comes off it's likely to kill somebody.”

The incident has also sparked concerns from members of the 4Villages campaign, set up to oppose a planned wind farm at Pulham, near Diss. A spokesman said: “The wind industry say this can't happen, but it just keeps happening nonetheless!”

Ecotricity plans to start constructing the Lotus turbines this spring. It will be the world's first car factory powered entirely from wind energy, with enough spare electricity to supply about 1,000 homes annually in a typical year.

An Ecotricity spokesman said that their engineers and Enercon's are carrying out a thorough investigation of the incident at Conisholme.

“We don't as yet have any evidence that points us to a cause. There is nothing obvious in what we've found so far, no tell tale signatures of, for example, lightning strike or collision. We've examined the turbine, the fallen blade and the surrounding area, looking for clues. We also sent parts of the fallen blade away for more forensic testing,” the spokesman explained.

“We have been liaising with the Health and Safety Executive and the local council. Both are satisfied that this is a unique and isolated incident. We, and they, have no concerns with the ongoing safety of this, or any of our other wind parks.”

The Friends of Hethel have made an application to seek a judicial review to quash the planning permission for the turbines. As a result, South Norfolk Council has advised Defence Estates to submit a formal planning application on behalf of the MoD if it wishes an aviation light to be installed on each of the turbines.

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