Wind farms vulnerable to fire

London, Wind turbines are catching fire 10 times more often than reported, a new study has shown.

Compared to other energy industries such as oil and gas, fires are much less common in wind turbines. However, the cost of each wind turbine is more than 2 million pounds (Rs.20 crore) and it generates an income of more than 500,000 pounds (Rs.5 crore) per year.

Any loss or downtime of these valuable assets makes the industry less viable and productive.

The study involved about 200,000 turbines. The researchers found that an average of 11.7 fires are reported publicly, but more than 117 separate fires are breaking out in turbines every year.

"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," said Guillermo Rein from the Imperial College, London.

The team found that in 90 per cent cases, the fire either led to a lot of downtime or a total loss of the wind turbine.

Wind turbines catch fire because highly flammable materials such as hydraulic oil and plastics are close to machinery and electrical wires.

These can spark a fire if they overheat or are faulty. Lots of wind can quickly fan a fire inside a turbine. Once burning, the chances of fighting the blaze are low due to the height of the wind turbine and the remote locations they are often in.

The researchers gave the main causes of fires outlined in decreasing order of importance to be lightning strike, electrical malfunction, mechanical failure, and maintenance errors.

The research was published in the journal Fire Safety Science.

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