Safety concerns for planned Cork windfarm project

Concern has been expressed about a windfarm project in Co Cork which will feature the same type of turbine which collapsed on a mountainside in the North last week.

An 80m wind turbine which collapsed at Screggagh windfarm, Co Tyrone, last Friday.

The 80m turbine, worth more than €2m, collapsed at the Screggagh wind farm between Fintona and Fivemiletown in rural Co Tyrone last Friday.

A major investigation has been launched by the operators in conjunction with turbine manufacturers Nordex UK to establish the cause of the collapse.

The turbine, which was one of eight at the site, was manufactured by the same company which is supplying similar turbine models to a windfarm which is being established at Knockduff Mountain, between Coachford and the Boggeragh Mountains in Co Cork.

Green Energy Supply Ltd plans to erect 26 Nordex wind turbines at the Knockduff windfarm over the next few months, with commissioning of the entire facility scheduled for July.

Planning for the Knockduff windfarm was approved by Cork County Council in 2011, after the original application for a 38-turbine farm was reduced to 26 on appeal to An Bord Pleanála.

The project was given the green light by the planning appeals authority with 24 conditions attached.

The turbines earmarked for the Knockduff site are taller than the turbine which collapsed in Tyrone.

Initial reports from the Tyrone site indicated that wind speeds were medium at the time of the collapse and that its collapse was due to structural failure.

West Cork Wind spokesman Anthony Cohu said his organisation is concerned about such collapses and about turbines going on fire.

“Could one or more of the Knockduff wind turbines suffer the same fate as at Screggagh, and if so, are measures in place to prevent groundwater contamination by spilled lubricants, fire in adjacent Coillte forests and injury to recreational users of the Duhallow Way which passes directly below the turbines?” he said.

Mr Cohu said there were at least four Irish wind turbine incidents resulting in thrown debris in the recent past — debris which has the potential to inflict serious injury or death on passersby.

He said a wind turbine shed blades, causing a fire, at the Cappaboy windfarm forest near Bantry last year.

“This calls into question the safety of people, and especially children, living where wind turbines are located close to the current minimum setback distance, particularly since at least two wind turbine manufacturers class 500 metres as the radius of highest danger in the event of malfunction or fire,” he added.

Mr Cohu said it is hoped that the Department of the Environment and the Health and Safety Authority will take appropriate steps to prevent groundwater contamination and fire, and to ensure that recreational and occupational users are afforded a level of protection equivalent to that applicable to a generating plant mounted at ground level.

“That level of protection is not being provided to the public at present,” he said.

Despite several attempts, Green Energy Supply Ltd did not respond to requests for a comment on its Screggagh project.

Meanwhile, the Health and Safety Authority has launched an investigation after a large turbine blade became detached from the turbine prop at a windfarm in Co Kerry.

The investigation, which could take several weeks, is expected to focus on whether high winds were to blame or whether mechanical failure played any part in the incident.

The 30m blade was found lying on the ground about 100m from a turbine located in a windfarm at Tursillagh, outside Tralee, earlier this week.

The damaged blade has been removed for examination.

The incident prompted local people to express concerns about the safety of the remaining turbines and the safety of the remaining blades.

North Kerry has one of the highest concentrations of windfarms in the country.

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