With the recent storms whipping across the south of the UK, many people have started worrying about what will happen to our turbines. The main message is don’t panic – wind turbines are programmed to shut off in very high winds, although usually much higher than those we’ve seen recently in the UK, so there really is no reason to be concerned.
When strong winds blow, most turbines have a variety of automatic shutdown speeds. When wind is measured over a certain speed for longer than 10 minutes, or there are large gusts over 100mph, a shutdown trigger is activated and the turbine stops turning. In fact, the blades of a turbine are ‘feathered’, meaning they are twisted so they no longer catch the wind and stop rotating, reducing the risk of damage to the turbine.
Two years ago, footage was released showing a wind turbine breaking up and catching fire in Ardrossan, Ayreshire during high winds, which sparked widespread panic for many living with or close to turbines. However, the incident was a one-off; it occurred due to a fault with the brakes, stopping the head of the turbine pointing in the right direction and is a very rare occurrence.
As a result, the chances of witnessing a falling tree are far greater than any malfunction of wind turbines. If anything, the high wind speeds are only helping to produce the electricity we need, so no reason to panic.