Turbines set to turn again at Highland schools
Risk assessments allow recommissioning after added safety improvements
Report from – Jo Smit
Wind turbines in the grounds of Highland schools are to go back into action, following a review sparked by concerns about their safety.
The Highland Council suspended the operation of turbines in May, pending a comprehensive risk assessment. Sites have now been assessed, and as a result turbines will be restarted next month at 12 schools in Caithness, Sutherland, Ross, Lochaber and Inverness. Not all the turbines will go back into service, however. Turbines at schools in Holm in Inverness, Rosehall in Sutherland and on Eigg will be decommissioned due to ineffective energy performance. Another, poorly-sited, turbine will also be decommissioned. The council hopes to recycle decommissioned turbines by moving the equipment to more suitable sites.
The council believes it has broken new ground in assessing and managing the risks associated with wind turbines in schools, following the detailed review of school locations by BRE. Risk assessments concluded that the turbines will operate safely at wind speeds of up to 134mph. The council intends to apply a further safety margin and ensure that no turbine is operational in wind speeds exceeding 100mph. Procedures will be in place to ensure turbines are isolated and made safe before extreme conditions prevail. Further site specific measures will be carried out before re-energising the turbines, in line with the recommendations of BRE and resulting from the conclusions of the council’s own risk assessments. These measures principally involve fencing, servicing and staff training.
Steve Barron, depute chief executive and director of housing and property at the council, said: “The council takes the issue of safety within schools very seriously and where additional measures are deemed necessary these will be planned and undertaken in consultation with head teachers and the council’s health and safety team.”
Barron said the council is committed to continuing its turbine programme: “The work has provided us with an effective set of assessment tools which will be applied to the planning and design of future micro turbine installations. These are excellent investments for the council both in terms of carbon reduction and financial return.”