Wind Turbine Fires 10 Times More Common than Previously Thought
Nearly 120 wind turbines catch fire each year – ten times the number reported by the industry – according to new research. The figures show that fires are the second biggest cause of accidents in wind turbines, after blade failure.
According to the Telegraph, Engineers at Imperial College London and the University of Edinburgh found that out of the 200,000 wind turbines across the world, an average of 117 burst into flames each year, many more than the 12 reported by wind farm firms.
The researchers added that as each turbine costs more than £2 million and can generate around £500,000 per year, any down time could make the industry less viable. Also, because the turbines are so far off the ground, it is almost impossible to put the fires out, leading to the whole structure potentially being destroyed.
Dr Guillermo Rein of Imperial College said: “Fires are a problem for the industry, impacting on energy production, economic output and emitting toxic fumes.
“This could cast a shadow over the industry’s green credentials.
“Worryingly our report shows that fire may be a bigger problem than what is currently reported. Our research outlines a number of strategies that can be adopted by the industry to make these turbines safer and more fire resistant in the future.”
The turbines catch fire because they contain flammable materials such as hydraulic oil, which are in close proximity to wires and machinery. High winds can add extra oxygen, making it even easier to catch fire if they are faulty or overheat.
The report also added that these fires can be hazardous for the surrounding area: “Under high wind conditions, burning debris from the turbine may fall on nearby vegetation and start forest fires or cause serious damage to property.”
Fires can also start as a result of lightning strikes, with turbines being especially prone as they are metallic and often the tallest structures for miles around.