Report - - Richborough 1MW Experimental Wind Turbine, Kent - Jan 2020 | High Stuff | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Richborough 1MW Experimental Wind Turbine, Kent - Jan 2020


Flaxenation of the G!!!
Regular User
Ever since I was a small child I remember looking out the car windows on a drive home waiting to see the huge cooling towers and wind turbine as we entered my hometown.
I guess other than local residents then there are probably very few that have travelled down through Richborough before and seen these for themselves or even know of their existence.

The Central Electricity Generating Board started construction of the Richborough power station in 1958, with Unit 1 coming online in December 1963, and Unit 2 following in August 1963. It opened as a 342MW coal-fired station, using coal from Kent and other coalfields. It was converted to burn oil in summer 1971 and further converted in 1989 to burn a proprietary oil and water emulsion called Orimulsion, imported from Venezuela through Port Richborough. The original Richborough power station operated from 1962 to 1996, with final demolition being undertaken in 2012.

The power station is also the site of a redundant 1MW wind turbine which was the biggest anywhere in the UK when installed in 1989.

The National Grid interconnector from the original power station is still in place, and is now the grid link for the offshore Thanet Wind Farm with the grounds of the power station are now the landing site for a 400kV 1,000MW HVDC power cable from Belgium called nemo link which entered commercial use at the end on January 2019.

I was always fascinated with the towers and really wish they had remained so I could climb them but the opportunity is now lost though I did get to explore the old PowerStation when I had started exploring places about 13 years ago. This was when I first had a chance to get up close to the turbine and realise just how huge it really was as it always appeared smaller from a distance when I was young.

With the cooling towers gone the large wind turbine now dominates the landscape with a couple of thin weather towers either side. I had always been interested in seeing inside the wind turbine and climbing up the tower to the hub but I had never seen it in use and there had never been an opportunity to visit it legitimately. Over the years this led me to read into the history and purpose of the turbine and why it was constructed to be locked up and neglected for as long as I can remember.

It seems a little strange talking of the history of something that was only constructed 31 years ago but despite its short life, it was a significant part of the research and study of renewable energy sources in the UK.

In the 1980’s wind energy was regarded as one of the most promising of the renewable energy sources in the UK and the department of Energy and the Central electricity Generating Board worked closely together to evaluate its potential. The department’s major interest was in the development of wind turbines for the generation of electricity on a significant scale while the CEGB wished to gain sufficient knowledge about wind energy to be able to assess its potential for use on its system when the technology has advanced sufficiently.

A Proposal was made for the development of an advanced low-cost 1mw wind turbine for general utility application with an aim to complete the research over a 4 year period from 1july 1986 – 30 June 1989 with a total budget of £3million.

James Howden had already commissioned machines in sizes ranging from 22m (300kW) to 45m (750kW) and had proposed to retain the principle features of these designs in the 55m 1mw machine. The aim was to produce a design which would be cost effective on sites of moderate wind speed.

The new design was innovative and introduced new concepts leading to the potential of reduced overall costs.

Planning consent was granted and the wind turbine was installed in 1985 after initial studies demonstrated the capabilities of the new turbine design which had undergone major research and development in the design stage of new materials and components to achieve reliability, efficiency, strength, but also on the aesthetics of the machine as it would have to be considered ‘eye pleasing’.

The wind turbine was designed for a 25 year life.

“The wind turbine is a three blade, pitch tip controlled machine with a rated power output of 1,000kW at a wind speed of approximately 12m/s. The three blade upwind rotor is used for a number of reasons, for instance smooth power output, good start up characteristics, and reduced dynamic blade loads.

The rotor diameter is 55m and the hub height of the machine is 45m.

The free standing tubular styled tower, which is fabricated in steel, flares towards the base in order to increase the foundation bolt pitch circle diameter, and to provide accommodation for all the necessary electrical and control equipment.

The basic design concept incorporated a number of innovate features. It essential items are:
- Lightweight wood/epoxy blades
- Thick airfoil sections near the blade roots, to allow weight savings to be made
- Hydraulically activated movable blade tips.

As with other WEGA wind turbines a modular drive train arrangement with two main rotor bearings and an epicyclical gearbox was chosen. The main rotor speed is fixed, because the 6-pole induction generator is directly grid connected.

The machine is located at the Powergen’s Richborough power station Kent. The site is 2km from the coast and mostly level.
Each blade weighs 3.6t
- Tower 76.5 t steel dia top/base 3m / 6m
- Towerhead 83.4t
- Total 159.9t “

I had been to the turbine a few times in a hope that the door at the base of the tower may one day be left open but this was wishful thinking and the door was always securely locked.

I had also looked for any cable tunnels or trenches that may lead into the base of the tower but again had no luck.

Half way up the tower of the turbine at about 70ft was an open platform to hoist equipment in and out of the turbine. This was teasingly too high to logically reach and seemed to be the only way to ever possibly get inside the thing.

A few years back I had come up with a rather idiotic idea of climbing the weather tower beside the turbine and trying to cast a line over to the platform on the turbine but the distance was too great and after climbing the single straight ladder up the tower while observing its loose fixings I quickly descended the ladder and vowed never to climb it again. It was at this point Id almost given up on the idea of exploring the turbine until returning to try and cast a fishing line over it with a rod or throwing a weight over….both seemed impossible and were never really going to happen.

I couldn’t let this one go and it continued to bug me for years until maniac said he would be keen to try and crack it with me when I said my plan had been to cast a line over the platform and id learnt the correct height of it but had failed previously.

We quickly set a night and headed to the turbine late one evening with bags and holdalls full of climbing ropes, harnesses and other equipment that we thought may be necessary to put our plans into action and climb the turbine.

Arriving at the perimeter we made our way through overgrowth whilst avoiding a security guard running laps of the rear fence. Torches off and slowly fighting our way through bushes in the dark we eventually made our way to the base of the turbine. The wind wasn’t on our side and was slowly getting stronger so we had to act quickly. The plan was to use a crossbow to fire our lines over an access platform which is half way up the tower of the turbine at 70ft. It was freezing and we were attempting something requiring good accuracy under complete darkness. After 3 hours and with our final line and arrow to go we crossed our fingers and took one last try….Bingo we had done it and once the wind had died down briefly then we retrieved the line and began to rig our ropes ready for the ascent.

At the final second of pulling the rope into position our line snapped and we had no more equipment left to try again. We left the compound deflated and disappointed but at least now we knew that it was definitely possible.

Maniac immediately ordered more equipment and some upgrades to ensure we had the best chance of getting our line over the turbine a second time then we played the waiting game until we got a clear night and little wind to prevent or plans being successful. A few weeks passed and we had a perfect night ahead and so planned to go for round 2. This was my birthday weekend and there couldn’t be a better way to celebrate and remember it than to finally crack something I had wanted to see my entire life.

Ropes, cameras, beers and all other equipment packed I headed out to meet maniac nearby the turbine and we began the long walk again to the base. This time we could see everything as clear as day and there was no wind at all, we couldn’t have picked a perfect night. We didn’t know at the time but this was the night of the wolf moon and it illuminated everything beautifully. We got to the base of the turbine and checked around for any signs of security movement then set up our gear ready to try and fire another line over the tower platform. Like an absolute pro, maniac fired the first shot perfectly over the platform exactly where we needed it to be and it wasn’t long before we had finished rigging our ropes and were ready to begin the ascent up the ropes. Maniac volunteered to go first. We had planned to do this at night to give us the cover of darkness from any potentially concerned onlookers but it really was like daylight which meant we needed to move fast up the line and hope we couldn’t be seen. Mike began the climb and with the movement of the platform, our ropes and other various points of contact the ropes had lots of movement which was very unnerving but everything held and before long he had reached the platform. I was next and so clipped my chest and hand devices to the ropes and after a deep breath made my way up the ropes as fast as I could.

By the time I was laying on the platform I was exhausted with arms like jelly. We caught our breath them made our way into the tower of the turbine to climb internally to the head. What we hadn’t considered were the amount of pigeons who had made their home in the tower, we fought our way through hundreds of them as we climbed ladders coated in thick bird shit.

We finally reached the hub of the turbine and set up our cameras before looking for a way to get on top of the head. There was no ladder access to the head but instead there was an open hatch close to a gantry crane installed in the hub for maintenance of the rotor.

We climbed the gantry crane before pulling ourselves out of the hatch onto the head of the wind turbine. This is probably the maddest thing I’ve done to date and it is definitely one of the most unforgettable and after climbing onto the brittle fibreglass head 120ft above Richborough and cracking open a beer was the perfect reward though a little fresh in the winter breeze on a night I’d had to scrape ice from the windscreen before heading out. Without too much more to say we grabbed our photos and abseiled down heading off without any bother. Hope you enjoy the photos :thumb

Thanks to @Maniac for a 30th to remember!!​


rebmeM LD82
Regular User
A+++ write up dude! It was certainly a night to remember, and quite how I got that line over on the first attempt on the second night I will never know!

To clarify how tricky this was, the platform we roped over is held in place by a wire that extends from its end to the turbine at roughly 45 degrees. It's actually on a winch to allow the platform to be closed up when it's not needed. To get our rope over I had had to get the line though the triangle made by this wire, the side of the turbine and the hand rails of the platform at a fair distance away to get the right trajectory. Too high and I'd have gone above the wire - no good the rope would have just slid off. Too low and it would have missed the platform. It was remarkable it went exactly where we needed it first go considering the crossbow used was a pistol grip one made of plastic - not well known for its accuracy. Good luck to anyone else who attempts this!

Cracking photos and write up as usual dude, fish eye was definitely order of the day. Like a muppet I forgot my camera battery on this night as I was too preoccupied making sure we had everything else we needed, so I have no photos to add other that to say what a cracking night and fantastic to finally sit on top of it after many years of driving past it!

Here's a silly thing, my avatar on here is a pic of the cooling towers and chimney at Richborough powerstation when it was still standing. I think I set that way back in 2007 when I joined!
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Bally up!
Regular User
Hell yes - love this. I also love the fact that it’s not just a random wind turbine and means something to you :)


Weirdy Beardy
28DL Full Member
I used to look forward to seeing this for the opposite reason. It meant a day at the seaside :D Do have vague memories of it running.

Cracking write up dude but in the words of Jesus Christ himself..... "fuck that" :p


Flaxenation of the G!!!
Regular User
And if you look very closely here you are climbing up that death trap of a tower
Ahh mate I was trying to dig out the photos from when we went up this tower years back but couldn't find them on my harddrive to add to this report. That tower was proper shit. haha