Blades 'flew off' wind turbine

A farmer from Upper Ballinderry has told how the massive blades of a wind turbine installed on his land came loose and flew over his house before crashing to the ground.

Gavin Hayes spent 46,000 installing the 25m-high tower 18 months ago and says he is having great difficulty having the problem resolved.

The Department of Agriculture, which gave him a 15,000 grant for the turbine, said there have been “difficulties” with 10 other turbines.

“It was three days after the turbine was installed that it [the incident] happened,” said Mr Hayes.

“It was really the first day there had been any real wind since it had been set up. The wind got up and the rotors came off the tower.”

The blades, which have a diameter of 10m, flew off and the tail went spinning in the wind.

“I was about 50m away when it came off and it flew right over the farmhouse,” he said.

“There were three blades in the rotor and they each went in different directions.

“They travelled about 200m and for 10 minutes the tail of the turbine was spinning around on top of the tower.

“I had no idea where it might have gone next but it just landed next to the tower.

“I was shocked by the whole incident as I had been out in the yard shortly before one of the blades landed there.”

Mr Hayes said he has only gone public after 18 months because he does not feel the problem is being resolved by either the supplier or the Department of Agriculture.

The News Letter contacted the supplier of the turbine who directed us to their solicitor, who was not available for comment.

The Department of Agricul-ture said 34 million was supplied to 26 rural businesses as part of the Wind Energy For Rural Businesses project.

A spokesman said 11 turbines supplied by one supplier “have presented difficulties” but that the turbines were “selected and commissioned” directly by the applicants.

He added: “The department understands that the problem arose from a manufacturer’s fault and that the supplier and manufacturer is working to resolve the problem.

“Whilst this work is ongoing the department cannot become involved in what is essentially a contractual and warranty matter that has potential litigation implications.”

William McCrea, chair of the Assembly’s Agriculture Comm-ittee, said there are “very serious questions” which need to be answered.

“A number of farmers, seeking to be innovative through using renewable energy sources, are now sitting with a very costly flag pole on their property and the department seems to have washed its hands of the entire matter,” he said.

“Therefore, I have requested that either the minister or the permanent secretary come to the committee and answer questions about how this scheme was implemented.”