September 5, 2013
Fears over children’s safety have been raised after the blade of a wind turbine similar to ones installed at Highland schools was thrown 60 yards by wind.
The turbine in Caithness started to break up as it was hit by a gust, and parents believe that pupils could be seriously injured, or even killed, if the incident is repeated at one of the 13 primary and secondary schools across the region that have their own turbines.
Brenda Herrick, the chairwoman of Castletown community council, has a grandson at Castletown Primary in Thurso. She said yesterday that she was worried in case a blade from the turbine at the school hit one of the children.
“I was already extremely concerned, but this shows just how dangerous they can be,” she said. “We keep being told they are safe, but no one can guarantee that and I don’t want one of these blades flying into my grandson or any other child.”
Highland Council shut down its turbines after a risk assessment recommended extra safety measures, including putting fences around them. Mrs Herrick, 72, said, however, that the barriers would do nothing to protect children from flying debris.
“Children aren’t allowed to play conkers in school for health and safety reasons, but it seems it’s OK to put dangerous machines in their playgrounds — it makes no sense at all.”
Stuart Young, chairman of Caithness wind farm information forum, said that a witness had seen a piece of debris from the blades of the Scrabster Hill turbine near Thurso land about 60 yards away from the mast after it was hit by a 40mph gust.
The 85ft structure is on farmland and only a couple of hundred yards from A836 Tongue-Thurso road. Mr Young said: “Highland Council steadfastly refuses to acknowledge any risk from siting small wind turbines in school playgrounds.”
He said that turbines could fail in wind speeds far less violent than those that manufacturers said they could withstand. Mr Young said: “Failures are usually caused by human error, but it is humans who order the installations, and install and maintain them. Surely now Highland Council will take notice and remove wind turbines from school playgrounds.”
A Highland Council spokesman said: “The council is satisfied that we have put in place the required risk assessments of wind turbines in schools to ensure their safe operation.”
Councillor Donny Kerr, who represents Inverness Central and has previously raised concerns about turbines in playgrounds, said that he was still wary of them. “I would be surprised if this sort of damage was done by a 40mph gust,” he said. “However, anything mechanical is prone to faults.”
The damaged turbine in Caithness is owned by John Henderson, of Scrabster Farm. He could not be contacted for comment yesterday.
A turbine at Raasay Primary, on the Isle of Skye, was removed after it broke up in 2009.