Thursday, 8 January 2009

UFOs?! What next...

Dale Vince, CEO of Ecotricity, found another opportunity to self-publicise, following sensationalist headlines hitting the press this morning:

“UFO hits wind turbine”
The Sun

“UFO claim over wind farm damage”
BBC News

“Wind turbine destroyed after ‘octopus UFO’ seen in sky"

“Inquiry launched into ‘UFO attack’ on turbine”

This all started after an investigation was launched this morning into how one of the 20 turbines at Ecotricity’s Consiholme wind farm (Fen Farm, total capacity of 16MW, running since 17 April 2008) came to be seriously damaged last night.

This morning the turbine was discovered with one of its blades “missing” (it had not disappeared as speculated by The Sun, but had fallen to the ground) and another seriously damaged.

Apparently locals claim to have seen bright lights in the sky, one witness describing it as "a massive ball of light with tentacles going right down to the ground". Hmmm sounds a bit like a neighboring turbine to me. The moon was bright last night, wasn’t it?

Dale Vince, Ecotricity’s CEO, encouraged the sensationalism, saying on The Today programme this morning: “We haven’t come up with an answer yet, the UFO theory is the best we’ve got”.

Nonetheless, this is not the first time a Wind turbine has suffered damage such as this, in fact sometimes it is far worse… In fact, take the liberty of searching “wind turbine failures” on and you will see many amateur videos of wind turbines “self destructing”. Normally the failures are caused by internal mechanical failures (brake failures, gear failures etc) or structural damage. The carbon fibre blades are extremely light and fragile (they need to be in order to generate maximum energy in low winds), if the braking mechanism in the wind turbine that limits the speed of the wind turbine breaks, then there is nothing to stop the blades spinning dangerously out of control and causing damage. (NB This happens very rarely; normally any deterioration would be detected by one of the remote monitoring systems). Or if a blade was suffering from structural fatigue, it could feasibly break away from the nacelle and damage another blade on the way down.

Now, I’m not a mechanical expert by any means and I would never claim to be, but I am tempted to believe that perhaps this mysterious damage to the Fen Farm wind turbine was caused by a mechanical failure rather than a UFO.
But a UFO makes a great bit of publicity, doesn’t it Dale? Well, here you go, this link to your blog is on us:

By Clare Buxton
Wind Energy Sector Lead at EcoSearch

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