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Energy / Compelling evidence that risk of pollution from wind turbine blades is negligible, says Viking

A LOCAL wind farm developer has reiterated the industry view that concerns raised about the amount of microplastics (Epoxy) turbine blades emit while turning and being exposed to the weather are based on “unrealistic assumptions” and are not credible.

Shetland Windfarm Environmental Advisory Group (SWEAG) said it had examined the claims made by a Norwegian group and found them to be flawed and not based on fact.

A report by The Turbine Group (TTG) created a lot of discussion locally as it claimed a large wind turbine could shed as much 60 kilos of microplastics, some of it toxic, during the course of one year, and thus, potentially, polluting millions of litres of drinking water.

Viking Energy developer SSE Renewables has always disputed these claims.

Microplastics not an issue, Viking insists

 

The figures quoted in the report are 41,000 per cent greater that the figures provided by the Norwegian wind energy industry which quote a maximum of 50 grams of material is emitted per blade per year.

Now, SWEAG, which is holding its six-monthly meetings behind closed doors, has heard presentations from Strathclyde University as well as evidence from SSE’s own research.

Viking spokesperson Aaron Priest said: “The presentation [now seen by Shetland News] set out clear facts as to why no such risk realistically exists and why recent suggestions to the contrary appear to have been based on flawed data and some fundamental misinterpretations of known facts and recent academic research.

“In reality, only a small proportion of the leading edge of turbine blades is at risk from such erosion; all blades are sealed with erosion resistant, non-epoxy/non-toxic paint, with increased layering on the leading edge; all blades are additionally sealed with durable gel coat protection on the leading edge; and all blades are subject to a constant and ongoing inspection and maintenance regime on these protective coatings to maintain their structural integrity and optimise their commercial efficiency.”

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Priest said SSE had commissioned the University of Strathclyde to review the findings of The Turbine Group and interpret its analysis.

The university said: “The calculation made by The Turbine Group in Norway estimated a percentage mass loss based on the erosion rate at the leading edge and extrapolated that percentage to the total blade.

“This is a very significant overestimate and unrealistic assumption.”

It added: “Coated wind farm turbine blades have a far superior rain erosion resistance, and therefore the mass loss would be expected to be much less.”

SSE Renewables added it was taking measures to minimise the impact from erosion including erosion resistant paint, a gel coat barrier below the top coat on the blade leading edge, as well as an ongoing inspection regime.

The company said that of their fleet of 3,500 onshore turbines just 21, or 0.6 per cent, were scheduled for repair this year.

Priest added: “VEWF shares SWEAG’s view that the presentation provided compelling evidence that potential pollution risk from turbine blade erosion is negligible.”

The Norwegian authors of The Turbine Group’s report have been contacted with a request for comment.

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