Part 4: Government (MCS) failure

The original write up took us to the beginning of 2013.
By now it is clear Government inaction is risking lives and property.

It has been suggested I may be able to make a claim against SIAC under the 'Consumer Protection Act, 1987 Opens in new tab'. SIAC appear to be the manufacturer under definition of the act, they have their name on the inverter and the components (including tower) can only be purchased from them. I am definitely a consumer as I paid for it from our joint personal savings and had no connection with my 'sole-trader' business. But how to proceed?

An expert has looked at the legislation and but informed me it would not be effective without someone being injured, however there may be other avenues to follow. Later it would become clear that SIAC were already in financial difficult and even if I had signed the deed, or pursued a legal recourse there would have been little chance of getting any money back

I strongly suspect other installation are suffering similar problems, if mine was unique SIAC would have offered to replace the faulty tower rather than offering money back. Which then leads to that niggling feeling if I win an action will they simply fold as a business?

Other Bergey Turbines

From the characteristics of my system, I can't imagine I am alone with these problems. A quick search finds a fellow SIAC/Bergey owner, this time on a 15m tower. We compare notes and it turns out he has EXACTLY the same noise and vibration problems and he too has been complaining bitterly to SIAC.

At very low speeds <60rpm it gives out low level fog horn sounds.
At various specific speeds it emits what we have christened warbles, I look at these as harmonics associated with the cogging of the magnets in the head. We then have the roaring at higher speeds up until the point at which it furls (sometimes).

So as suspected the problem is not isolated to my site, nor my tower! This explains why SIAC did not offer to replace the tower ... they had similar problems elsewhere, which certainly should have indicated it was the design problem and not the installation.

With evidence that my system is not an isolated problem Dave Houston and I contact gemserv Opens in new tab, the body who oversee the MCS accreditation system on behalf of DECC Opens in new tab (Department of Energy & Climate Change). After a telephone call and some follow up emails, including a link to this write-up, gemserv have instigated an investigation; however they are not technical so they called on BRE Opens in new tab (Building Research Establishment) to look at the issue. BRE were the technical body who issued the technical certification which included the acoustic performance. I'm not clear at this point whether BRE actually performed the tests or if they were presented with data from a third party, but it does appear as if the testing was done in USA on a taller lattice tower.

The other body involved is NAPIT Opens in new tab (National Association for Professional Inspectors and Testers) who certify the installers. They have already made a detailed site visit as part of Dave Houston's accreditation process, so at least we have documentary evidence that the installation was completed properly.

What becomes clear is there is quite a mix of different organisations involved with the whole process, each doing their own bit. I may be pessimistic, but I'm old enough to see the possibility of one organisation blaming another, or things falling outside the overall scope.

Catastrophic failure of SIAC / Bergey turbine

Catastrophic fail
Bergey destroys itself on Skye
A few days after talking to the fellow SIAC/Bergey owner I receive an email saying his turbine went silent overnight. Investigation the following morning found the adjacent mess.

The welds have failed and the tower snapped in two.

I would have thought that this was now a case for the Heath & Safety executive, as there is clearly a risk of personal injury. The owner of the failed system was away for a few weeks and wished to remain anonymous while he considered his options. I sent further details to gemserv of this incident but observed the owners wishes and anonymised the data.

My tower is taller at 20m and has more sections but the maximum deflection during resonant deflection is similar to the failure point of the 15m tower. The previous video in Part2 gives an idea of this resonant deflection, but the video was not specifically looking at this mode and it is difficult to quantify the effect.

Bureaucracy and Cover up

It was the end of January when gemserv were asked to investigate and time passed with no visible action. In the mean time the owner of the collapsed Isle-of-Skye turbine had also lodged a formal complaint. There were further comments from other Bergey / SIAC owners about noise issues.

Apparently, gemserv were waiting for BRE and NAPIT to report back. Eventually NAPIT did confirm that having reviewed the original inspection report that there were no non-conformities and the installation complied with the standard (MIS3003 v3.0).

To reiterate:
The NAPIT site inspection confirms that my turbine conforms to the government approved MCS installation standard – it is built and sited properly. The inspection report may be viewed by clicking the adjacent PDF link.

BRE Global seemed to be in 'defence mode', aggressively distancing themselves from any problem, blaming the tower which was not part of the certification.

After a good deal of prompting the BRE compliance engineer assigned to this case sent an email which indicated: BRE had contacted Bergey who claimed the site was too close to buildings and that was the problem. BRE had not challenged this claim, nor had they made a site visit, nor had Bergey made a site visit. BRE went on to attempt to support Bergey's excuse by making a nonsensical and false statement about the distance the turbine should be from obstructions.

We had suspected that BRE were too close to the manufacturer and were seemly trying to absolve themselves of any responsibility and this seemed to prove it.

In response I returned a terse email pointing out the gross error made by the BRE engineer. I received a reply from the Director of Legal and Compliance at BRE promising to investigate "this issue anew as a matter of priority". There seems to be an acceptance that BRE have made an error.

Another Bergey collapse on Orkney
Another Bergey catastrophically fails on Orkney
The blade is a long way from the tower!
Ten weeks after the formal request to gemserv to investigate and we appear no further forward. We have had a further site visit from NAPIT, but nothing yet from BRE. I had previously made an appointment with my MP, George Freeman, and he agreed to discuss the matter with Greg Barker at DECC. This matter clearly needs some high level political oversight!

After a year of attempting to sort the problems and after SIAC went onto receivership eventually a face-to-face meeting with MCS was arranged. In attendance were Gideon Richards (CEO and Chairman of MCS), John Holden (BRE Global), Paul Rochester (Civil servant - DECC), plus two administration staff from MCS.

In brief summary ... MCS have a piece of paper from a test done in the USA (on a lattice tower in totally open terrain) which says the turbine meets its noise specification so everything must be OK. Summing up the multitude of issues leading to the picture opposite it is a matter of < fingers-in-ears, singing "la-la-la" > not our problem, don't want to know not part of the 'international wind specification'! MCS can't (read will not) help me and recommend ... "Sue your installer".

Fortunately I recorded the meeting (2.5 hours) so we will be able to drill down to some of points when I update this blog. Also we can look at the untruths in letters signed by Greg Barker, but probably written by his civil servant - Rochester. Incidentally, Greg Barker has refused to meet me, odd considering how bad this looks for the credibility of MCS.