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« A small win for Svensmark | Main | Energy day »

Official policy: put kids in mortal danger

The Telegraph reports on a wind turbine in the grounds of a school in Thurso was destroyed by a brisk breeze:

Two blades were ripped from the 18m high turbine in the Scottish Highlands and thrown up to 60 yards away after it was hit by 40mph gales. A third was left badly buckled.

The risk to the lives of children is obvious, although mercifully nobody was injured on this occasion.

Readers should be clear that putting wind turbines in school grounds is not something that is done willy-nilly. It is officially encouraged, part of the sustainable education strategy put in place in 2006 by the then Labour Education Secretary Alan Johnson.

By 2020, the Government would like all schools to be models of energy efficiency, renewable energy use and water management. They should take the lead in their communities by showcasing wind, solar and bio-fuel energy, low-energy equipment, freshwater conservation, use of rainwater and other measures.

Also calling for more wind turbines in school grounds is green Labour MP and Energy and Climate Change Committee member, Alan Whitehead.

So, we wonder, did Mr Johnson and the educational bureaucracy give a moment's thought to the danger they were putting children in when they put this policy in place. Will he explain what he was playing at?

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Reader Comments (58)

Is this news for real? I cannot find any school near "Dunhobby" (rather than, say, in Thurso itself)

Sep 5, 2013 at 10:47 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Look at it postively. There would be a good supply of birds and bats for dissection in biology class!

Sep 5, 2013 at 10:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Jones

There is a Scrabster farm but, again, no school nearby

Sep 5, 2013 at 10:51 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Is this really the height of the debate against wind energy! I think cars around schools should be banned too! This blog is getting silly!

Sep 5, 2013 at 10:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn

Cars serve a useful purpose and are controllable.
Windmills serve no useful purpose and are not controllable.
If that's the best you can manage I suggest you give in and take up something more suitable to your skill set — like gazing out of the window, maybe.

Sep 5, 2013 at 11:00 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Sorry, give in to what? Mike. It is a sad state of affairs if this is the level of debate. As you say, I will move onto gazing out of a window.

Sep 5, 2013 at 11:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn

"Current planning policy and legislation does not include a standard separation distance between wind turbines and inhabited buildings"



"...and in one incident, a piece of blade was found almost 1000m from the turbine..."


HSE does not cover rotating machinery unless it is provided for use in the workplace.

No one would appear to be 'thinking of the children' in this case.

Sep 5, 2013 at 11:08 AM | Unregistered Commenterssat

The damaged turbine was not itself in a school, but attention is being drawn to siting turbines in schools:

Two blades were ripped from the 18m high turbine in the Scottish Highlands and thrown up to 60 yards away after it was hit by 40mph gales. A third was left badly buckled.

"Surely now Highland Council will take notice and remove wind turbines from school playgrounds. This is not an anti-wind farm issue but a safety one,” said Stuart Young, chairman of Caithness Wind Information Forum (CWIF).

"Highland Council steadfastly refuses to acknowledge any risk from siting small wind turbines in school playgrounds and considers that only at 80mph - twice the wind speed which destroyed the Scrabster Hill turbine - is there any need to consider action."

Sep 5, 2013 at 11:08 AM | Registered Commentermatthu

Quickest way to damage the bolts securing the blades to the rotor of a Wind Turbine , Wind Shear.

Sep 5, 2013 at 11:12 AM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

Leave it to the Greens. Finding the most expensive way to abort children.

Sep 5, 2013 at 11:16 AM | Unregistered Commentercedarhill

@ cedarhill

Ecofascists think about two-thirds of humanity needs to die. So in pursuit of this goal, presumably they'd attack the weak first: children, old people, poor people.

The effect and aim of their ideology is to ensure that everyone, eventually, ends up in the last category.

Boot stamping on a human face forever, etc...

Sep 5, 2013 at 11:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

And Alan Johnson was considered one of the best Labour ministers. There was even talk of him succeeding Brown.

Sep 5, 2013 at 11:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Stroud

As ministers go, Alan Johnson was a good postman.

Unfortunately his early life conditioned him to want all other foxes to lose their brushes too, which makes him morally deficient as a human being, and quite unfit to be a minister.

Sep 5, 2013 at 11:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka be fair there was no mention of 'hate'

Sep 5, 2013 at 11:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn

One is reminded of a quote from Brass Eye, episode 3.

"Of course, some people say it would be vulnerable in a stroke window ... but, for goodness sake, who's to say there's going to be a strong wind. Vertical farms, good science at work."

Sep 5, 2013 at 11:43 AM | Unregistered Commenterchippy

Well I learned something from this, I knew that the UK had accepted stupid carbon reduction targets but according to the sustainable education blurb we have other targets?

Every school is invited to consider its achievements so far and to plan what more it can do over
the long term to help the UK meet its 2020 sustainability targets. Action can be taken in many
areas, for example

If this is based on Agenda 21 we are in big trouble.

Sep 5, 2013 at 12:03 PM | Registered CommenterDung

John, I suspect you've missed the point. A windmill has been destroyed by a 40mph wind has sent the blades 60 yards. Separately our government is recommending that schools have their own windmills. So there is a debate to be had about the government's recommendations in the light of this incidence, and that the alarmists are telling us it isn't going to be warm now that it hasn't warmed and the heat can't be found, we're going to have more extreme weather events. Which I take to include higher wind speeds.

I, for one, believe there is a debate on how we get the government to rethink their recommendations on safety grounds.

Sep 5, 2013 at 12:03 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Is 40 mph a gale?

Sep 5, 2013 at 12:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterTony Hansen

The reason why so many "old white men' are anti-CAGW is that we are by far the smartest demographic.

Sep 5, 2013 at 12:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

Tony Hansen
In Caithness I would have thought the locals considered it to be a calm day if the wind was gusting to 40mph. Scrabster is on the Pentland Firth renown for its weather.

Sep 5, 2013 at 12:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

According to the met office a gale has to have a sustained wind speed of over 39mph. This barely qualifies.

Sep 5, 2013 at 12:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

Tony Hansen (Sep 5, 2013 at 12:07 PM):

Technically, no. The Beaufort scale has gale force (Force 8) at 40 – 48 knots (nautical miles per hour); as a nautical mile is 6050 feet, as opposed to the more commonly-used statute mile of 5280 feet, 40 mph is about 35 knots – i.e. near-gale.

Jimmy Haigh, DNFTT (but you do have a good point). However, leave him on the board; it can be amusing to see his/her/its constant clamouring for attention, and the lengths sought.

Sep 5, 2013 at 12:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

Bish, this was hardly worth reporting. I know Thurso and Scrabster from my childhood. It was an accident and some way away. The media reaction was an overreaction but c'est la vie, no?

Sep 5, 2013 at 12:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterGixxerboy

The article states that two blades were ripped ffrom the turbine.

My question would be is the failure due to the high winds and hence the failure is die to shear or excessive bending or is the failure due to fatigue? (failure caused by cyclical loadings)

Both the above modes of failure can be determined fom the evidence on site. The mode of failure that would be of mos concern would be fatigue?

What percentage of failures have occured in the uk? How does that relate to the number of turbines in schools.

Sep 5, 2013 at 12:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterStacey

An experiment of huge dimensions has started at Smøla wind farm. Several wind turbines will be painted to make them more visible to birds, thus reducing the risk of collisions.

Never before has a trial of this nature been carried out with such thorough scientific follow-up. The INTACT project, which is a collaboration between several players in the power industry and government administration, aims to confirm whether contrast painting might lead to fewer birds being killed by onshore and offshore wind farms.

“Countless hours of research have been spent on this issue since the Smøla wind farm was completed in 2005, and there are few places in the world where so much is known about bird behaviour in the vicinity of wind power generation,” says biologist and senior environmental advisor Bjørn Iuell at Statkraft.

In addition to the paint experiments, similar tests will be carried out with UV light. Birds can see UV light much better than people do, and installing UV lamps on one or more wind turbines can make them more visible. If the trial proves successful, one might also test out UV-reflecting paint, which is invisible to the human eye, but highly visible to birds.

Sep 5, 2013 at 12:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartyn

Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. In May last year, following similar catastrophic destruction to a turbine at Stoer, Highland Council commissioned an investigation by the Building Research Establishment into their use across sixteen school sites. Based upon their initial findings, the decision was taken to 'close them down', pending individual assessment and a commitment to undertake any additional measures deemed necessary.

Undeterred, Steve Barron, Depute Chief Executive and Director of Housing and Property, said at the time, “It is important to note the continued commitment of the council to reducing carbon emissions and energy costs through the use of renewable energy technologies. The deployment of wind turbines forms an important part of our plans to meet challenging national targets for carbon reduction. Following the proper assessment of risks, selection of appropriate locations and deployment of protective measures we intend to continue with our turbine programme.”

Sorry, Steve. Epic failure. Playing Russian roulette with kids, in order (we're told) to better save... the kids, and then some... might give succour to your ideological misunderstandings but chickens often display uncanny abilities when choosing sites to roost. To misquote, "I know what you're thinking. "Did it lose three blades or only two?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a 750kW turbine, amongst the most useless POS in the world, but could take your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: "Do I feel lucky?" Well, do ya, _?"

J/O/T - I believe this was at Castletown PS. The local hotel does brilliant Aberdeen Angus grub on Sundays and the fabulous Loch Watten trout are five minutes down the road. Roll on June 2014!

Sep 5, 2013 at 1:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeckary Greg

geronimo Lets just say, I will not be fearing for my child's safety if there is a windmill in their grounds! I think Gixxerboy's comment sums it up!

Sep 5, 2013 at 1:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn

I don't know how the elf and safety culture is in UK schools, but some Australian schools have banned running in the playground because of the alleged risk of serious injury. Needless to say, any play equipment that is fun has been removed for similar reasons.

It does seem odd that potential child decapitators are considered to be just fine.

Sep 5, 2013 at 1:17 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

Mildly OT - Have you ever noticed that it is only the play equipment the children actually want to use that gets removed? Weird, that!

Sep 5, 2013 at 1:27 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

To those commenting on a wind turbine in a school ...

I have a problem with solar panels - targeted at infant and junior schools and funded by the Co-op - several schools close to me have undergone the fitting of these panels - accompanied by a considerable quantity of "marketing material" and there's an active cadre of innumerate infant and junior school teachers who regularly meet up and organise media events with eco-activist NGO sponsorship on school premises. This is a national scheme - I do wonder how many instances there are out there - anybody know?

This is wrong - just absolutely wrong - if was a religious group doing this - the parents would be spitting feathers (well, some of them!)

What double irks me is that the quoted cost of the panels usually exceeds the cost of a small natural gas powered CHP unit that would blow the socks off photovoltaics cost benefit wise and even "carbon footprint" wise without subsidy - but then again people here know only too well I suppose what we are dealing with.

Sep 5, 2013 at 1:29 PM | Registered Commentertomo

Solar Panels on the roof make it more likely firefighters will leave the building to burn.

Sep 5, 2013 at 2:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterBruce

Gixxerboy and others: The precautionary principle is quite clear. If there is any chance at all of a child being harmed by a wind turbine, they should be removed from school grounds.

Sep 5, 2013 at 2:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterBruce

Mike Jackson - of course. :) Anyone who remembers being a child knows that swinging and spinning and climbing up high and stuff like that is the most fun. Sure, there was the odd scrape, bruise, even broken limb along the way. But I don't remember ever hearing of decapitation or being crushed by a 200kg falling bit of metal as a consequence of playing on (now banned) old fashioned playground equipment.

Sep 5, 2013 at 2:58 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

More background on this here from 2009-2012: e.g. in 2012:

‘Information provided by the authority shows that turbines have been erected, at a cost of £25,000 each, at nine north schools – Crossroads Primary (Thurso); Castletown Primary; Bower Primary (Wick); Culloden Academy (Inverness); Craighill Primary (Tain); Dornoch Academy; Inver Primary; Stoer Primary and Gairloch High School.’

and in 2009:

Children at an island primary were sent home after a newly-installed wind turbine next to their school collapsed, it emerged yesterday.
Parents of youngsters at the 18-pupil Raasay Primary School were asked to collect their children following the incident on November 13.
The 50ft turbine will “remain out of commission” until an investigation has been carried out.
The 6KW machine was installed at the school earlier this month, but was soon the subject of complaints due to the noise it was making.’

The current scandal is that it seemed the Highland Council decreed that the turbines in schools should be shut down in winds reaching 80mph or more - a very rare event at low levels. This latest turbine failure was not in a school, but on a farm. The key issue is that the failure occurred apparently in winds of possibly no more than 40mph.

Sep 5, 2013 at 3:05 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

The Daily Mail also has an article about that wind turbine. The newspaper claims that the blades broke off in gales of 40 mph even though they are supposed to be able to withstand hurricane force winds. Locals want wind turbines in schools to be removed but they claim that the local council insists they are safe and will do no more than shut down the wind turbines when wind speeds reach 80 mph - twice as fast as the gales that wrecked the turbine on Scrabster Hill!

Where are "Health and Safety" when you need them? Oh, I know - they will probably shut down all the schools in Scotland when there is enough wind for wind turbines to generate electricity!

Sep 5, 2013 at 3:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

It is very strange but it seems that if I ever mention Agenda 21 in a comment then there are no responses. Hmmmmmm

Sep 5, 2013 at 3:44 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Sep 5, 2013 at 12:33 PM | Unregistered Commenter Radical Rodent

I agree - DNFTT- but I just couldn't resist a response in this instance!

Sep 5, 2013 at 3:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

The troll in question was thoroughly owned and will spend the rest of the day in a rage at having been made to feel foolish.

Sep 5, 2013 at 5:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

Scary, but not as bad as a coal tip sliding down on a school killing hundreds of children. That was in the bad old days of coal when the people of Wales and other countries were landed with the rubbish left behind by an uncaring industry. Given the choice? give me wind farms any day.

Sep 5, 2013 at 6:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterGarethman

Does anyone have any info on how that windmill near the opera house in Glyndebourne is going? Has there been any recent performance of The Flying Dutchman at that place? Has the Satan been merciful?

I know, Google is my friend, but I have better mates here.

Sep 5, 2013 at 9:32 PM | Unregistered CommentersHx

Gixxerboy, the point was not that this particular failure represented a direct threat but should it cause a rethink of the policy of siting turbines in school playgrounds? A legitimate question.

I'm assuming, Bruce is being ironic in calling for the Precautionary Principle to be applied as it is, of course, the last resort of greenies when all rational argument has failed (as it always does). A proper risk assessment would deal with issues such as: will the wind turbines prevent these children, or their children, or their children's children from drowning because they forgot to relocate to higher ground as the sea levels slowly rise and is this a greater risk than being diced like a carrot by a flying wind turbine?

Garethman, Aberfan was a great tragedy but it was nearly 47 years ago. You're not being asked to choose between a poorly sited and engineered waste coal tip and a wind farm, just between having a wind farm which could send a turbine slicing through a classroom and not having one. I know I'd be opposing it if one was proposed for our daughter's school.

Sep 6, 2013 at 4:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterDocBud

DocBud, I agree, if a wind generator is found to be a threat to the safety of children it should not be sited in a school yard. What I am trying to say is that we should keep things in proportion. People talk about the effect on birdlife, there is truth in it, however cats kills hundreds of times more as do windows and cars with many other bit of modern day life accounting for a fair few more.They are inefficient, in monetary terms yes, but many feel that nuclear power is also inefficient by a much higher factor. People think they ruin the countryside, I am a smallholder, and wind turbines on farms near me don't appear to affect the relevant farms in the same way as other industries and; from a personal level there are many other sights that would look worse. So if they are dangerous in a school, remove them, but some of the posts here have extrapolated that to the idea that they must all be removed for one reason or another. Just like climate change itself, it's not a black and white issue and each factor should be considered on it's own merits.

Sep 6, 2013 at 9:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterGarethman


Next time you see a cat or a windshield kill a raptor or a bat, please let us know.

Sep 6, 2013 at 9:27 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna

Garethman (Sep 6, 2013 at 9:10 AM):

You do have a point. I can have no objection to a farmer wanting to erect a small turbine on his land to help ameliorate the costs; however, I would not be surprised if most soon find out that it is a cost that will never be repaid (hence so few? Hmmmm. I wonder…). My principle objection is to those forests of vast machines blighting the desolate beauty of Britain’s moorlands, destroying acres of sensitive habitat, and the ruination of the soil that their installation requires, all for absolutely ZERO return on outlay, except through heavy subsidies from the long-suffering tax-payer.

(Incidentally, my father was a civil engineer, and, during an interview, was asked how he would have handled the Aberfan disaster – his reply was he would have ensured it never happened in the first place. He got the job.)

Sep 6, 2013 at 10:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

@ Dung. When I show blatant fraud in weather station data I also get no replies - not just here.

Sep 6, 2013 at 11:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterSleepalot

Dung, as I have no idea what you mean by "Agenda 21", how can I comment upon it?

Sleepalot, you may have uncovered a remarkable fraud, but you give no explanation. I see that the Sun rises in the East every morning, but offer no explanation; you will agree with the observation, and may give a completely different (and wrong, of course, as this is my story) explanation.

Sep 6, 2013 at 1:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent


Next time you see a cat or a windshield kill a raptor or a bat, please let us know.

Hi Johanna, certainly ( from my knowledge in one small village). Tawny owl this week hit by a car. Two common buzzards found by the side of the road, likely car accidents. One Merlin and a Greater spotted woodpecker caught by a cat as well as the usual variety of cat prey.We try and avoid birds hitting sheet glass through the use of silhouettes of raptors stuck to the glass. The problem with bats , especially Pipistrelles and other smaller insect eating bats is that they are attracted to roads due to the lights attracting insects. They are not as obvious to see as road kill, but they are there. They are not usually killed by collision, but but the vortex created by speeding truck etc. This is the same cause of mortality with wind turbines, there just happens to be a heck of a lot more trucks than wind turbines. If you want to look after birds, there are many more much efficient things you can do than protesting against wind farms.

Sep 6, 2013 at 1:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterGarethman


Boy, your village and environs are the Midsomer of raptors, seemingly. Where I live, we have lots of owls and quite a few eagles, hawks and other largeish raptors living in and around the city (of 350,000 people). According to our local ornithologists' site, there are no recorded deaths due to cats or cars. Habitat destruction and idiots with guns are another story. As windmills are starting to be built all around, I await the next installment, but there can only be one possible outcome. Sooner or later, they will join the roll of victims.

As you probably know, raptors are at the top of the bird food chain, and are slow breeders that often have large individual territories. Losing a few is far more significant than losing a thousand feral pigeons that fly into windows or get eaten by cats.

As for bats, there is quite a bit of evidence that they are killed and maimed by windmills, but actual evidence about cats or cars or windows is hard to find. Do you have any?

I don't want to "look after birds" indiscriminately. As I hinted above, the loss of common, numerous pests like feral pigeons or Indian Mynahs worries me not in the least. Unfortunately, pest birds like these are not the ones that are usually found in high, windy places where the windmills tend to be.

Sep 6, 2013 at 3:16 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

Hi Johanna, I suspect we live in differing countries, I initially guessed somewhere in North America for you, but Mynah birds? India? We do not have Eagles in Wales but have many common Buzzards which are the most common raptor seen in the UK and are commonly run over due to feeding on road carrion. The figures I give are by no means unusually, perhaps due to the UK having a high level of birdlife? There are plenty of articles on bats and road deaths; here is one from North America and one from the DTI in Wales on planning roads to avoid Bat deaths. As with most discussions on Wind turbines it’s useful to keep things in perspective. I live next to one of the largest windfarms in the UK and from personal observation they do not seem to be the Armageddon of bird life that is claimed. That’s obviously subjective and I wish I could say the same for my farm cats.

Sep 6, 2013 at 4:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterGarethman

A few years ago a building company, Barratts, applied to build a housing estate adjacent to my daughter's primary school, at the time they were required to make any new development 'carbon neutral'. According to their publicity (they set up a visitor centre on site) they considered solar panels (too expensive), heat pumps (not enough land per house) and roof turbines (insufficient output). The only realistic way to satisfy the requirement was to build a single large wind turbine next to the school. I put in a planning objection on safety grounds, but because there were so many I was asked not to attend the planning meeting due to space limitations. The turbine plan was duly rejected but the estate was still built. I don't know how they got around the 'carbon neutral' rules, at the time I thought that the safety issues were so obvious that it must have been a deliberate ploy to avoid them.

Sep 6, 2013 at 4:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterJim Turner

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