Turbine safety risks at Barrington, RI high school

Last month, Barrington, RI voters approved plans to fund and erect a $2.4 million wind turbine to power the local high school. Town leaders anticipate the 600 KW turbine to supply a substantial portion of the school's energy demand. Windaction.org tried to determine a cost breakdown, expected electric generation, and suggested payback period but documentation on the Town's website showed numbers to be inconsistent and difficult to reconcile. For example, documents put the turbine cost at $1.4 million installed with published annual capacity factors varying between 19% and 25%. Further, no wind studies were done to gauge whether the marginal area winds meshed with periods of high demand.

Financials aside, Windaction.org is most concern with the suggested placement of the turbine. According to published reports, the base of the 328-foot structure will be located roughly 200-feet from the high school building, between the football and baseball fields and at 500-feet (or less) from the nearest residence. Town reports justify the minimal setbacks with rhetoric like "In order to attract investment, this new industry cannot afford any failures so the machines have to be designed to meet extremely high safety standards and have thereby enjoyed an excellent safety record ..."

Windaction.org encourages Barrington residents to demand a more thorough investigation into the risks of placing turbines so close to where people gather. Turbine collapse, blade throw, ice drop, and fire are a few of the accidents reported in the US just in the last 10 months. See also: http://www.windaction.org/faqs/14347 . Turbine manufacturer Vestas recommends no less than 1,300-feet clearance for technicians. And noise is another important factor. The noise level of the 600 KW machine at hub height is 98 decibels, only slightly lower then the turbines installed at Mars Hill, ME.

JUN 24 2008
back to top