The question of fires in wind turbines has been the topic of yesterday’s workshop in Copenhagen, where OffshoreVäst and SP Swedish Technical Research Institute were welcoming experts from both the wind industry, from fire safety system experts and suppliers from all over Europe and researchers in the field of fire safety from both Europe, China and New Zealand.
So what’s the issue? Are wind turbine fires of any importance?
Yes, they are! No turbine manufacturer nor asset owner wants to have their workers hurt in a fire incident. First priority thus is people safety which includes early detection of fire and mainly safe egress from the turbine. Déborah Hermida from GAMESA was presenting results of their modelling efforts together with Universitat Politécnica de Catalunya, namely Elsa Pastor Ferrer.
And yes the issue is important also when it comes to the public perception of safety of wind power. Pictures of “giant torches” – as a wind turbine on fire is providing spectacular scenes – are thankfully promoted by journalists and picked up by wind power critics to spread it around the world: a negative image on the entire wind industry whenever that is happening. Can the damage to the industry or a single actor be quantified at all?
But how common are wind turbine fires actually?
Incident statistics seem to be solely in the hands of the turbine manufacturers, except for fires destroying an entire turbine, as this is promoted by news media. A point where researchers are struggling as it is difficult to draw conclusions without decent data. Guillermo Rein, Imperial College London, says: “Fire is the second most frequent incident and often leads to total loss of the turbine. We estimate one turbine fire per day worldwide – but we see just the tip of the iceberg…“ It is essential to “do more research and to develop routines and guidelines on how to account for fire safety in the design” says Anne Dederichs, SP Safety, who has led a study on wind turbine fires at SP.
Companies and researchers are now seeking to team up in order to further define the most urgent and important questions in the field of wind turbine fires, and to get those sorted out! This will be one step to continue the path of the wind industry to further increase cost-efficiency whilst ensuring and improving safety. A project is formed in the coming month.
Report by Tanja Tränkle