Given suspicions that solar farm fires are underreported, a new Firetrace International report highlights concerns that the solar industry may be unaware of the true extent of fire risk. Data concerning solar farm fires is in short supply. In fact, such is the lack of statistics that researchers – specifically, those at the UK’s BRE National Solar Centre – have reached the worrying conclusion that they suspect solar farm fires are being underreported.
If you’re a building owner, a business owner, or another key decision maker in an industry where the potential for fire is high, then it’s important to understand whether or not you need a fire suppression system. The fact is, in many settings, fire suppression systems are necessary to quickly detect fire and automatically activate—before equipment or employees are put in harm’s way.
When fires ignite in wind turbines, speed is of the essence for suppressing the flames. We’ve noted in a previous blog about how long it takes for a wind turbine fire to cause irreparable damage and concluded then that the straightforward answer is that it doesn’t take long at all. It’s a matter of minutes before a faulty electrical component or overheated gearbox ignites a fire that leads to total destruction.
An electrical fire is one that starts due to an electrical failure or malfunction. While these incidents generate flames and heat like any other fire, it’s important to know you can’t use water to put out these flames. Using water while the power is still on can cause you to be electrocuted. And even when the power is off, water may damage the wiring, electronics, or machinery that was the source of the fire.
Fire safety should be a top priority for all wind farm operators. The industry’s journey towards truly comprehensive protection against fire shouldn’t begin at the finish line, leaving firefighters and staff to deal with the consequences when fires break out. Our latest report, “How to Evaluate Fire Risk,” shows why performing an effective fire risk assessment (FRA) is crucial, and how to best execute it.
Wind turbines have seen a steady increase in size since the early 2000s, with both the height of the tower and the length of the blades growing to generate more energy. Wind turbines are typically measured by their “hub height,” which refers to the distance from the ground to the middle of the turbine’s rotor. The average hub height for utility-scale, land-based turbines increased by 59% between 1998 and 2020 – bringing it to 90 meters (295 feet), roughly the same size as the Statue of Liberty. The hub height of offshore turbines is projected to increase even further. In 2016, they had an average hub height of 100 meters (330 feet) and are set to increase to 150 meters (500 feet) by 2035.
Thoroughly evaluating fire risk through a comprehensive assessment of a wind project is one thing, but using it effectively is another. Once a fire risk assessment (FRA) has been conducted, it’s important to consider how to share the assessment with the range of stakeholders that are certain to benefit from being aware of its contents. In our latest report, ‘How to Evaluate Fire Risk,’ we identify eight stakeholder groups with whom you should share your FRA to effectively reduce the risk of fire.
Wind turbine fires don’t just burn infrastructure; they burn time and money. Incidents can result in several hours of downtime across the entire wind farm and put the affected turbine out of commission for over a year. In addition to missed-out megawatts, the resulting cost can shoot beyond $9 million as turbines increase in size and complexity. The process of repairs is lengthy, expensive, likely dangerous, and ultimately avoidable. Fire suppression systems, which act at the first sign of fire, stifle the flames before they can cause real harm to equipment, reputations, lives, and the bottom line.
Wind turbine fires can be catastrophic. Not only the asset itself but also to the individuals and the surrounding environment. For wind farm owners seeking to safeguard their assets from fire risk, undertaking an in-depth fire risk assessment (FRA) is vital. Our latest report, ‘How to Evaluate Fire Risk at Wind Farms,’ highlights the importance of FRA’s and advises the best methods for conducting them.
By 2030, 205GW of new offshore wind capacity is expected to be added globally, according to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC). Though this growth is essential for the energy transition, it presents new and heightened challenges to the industry. From getting the energy to shore, the sea-bound commute for operations and maintenance (O&M) teams, or preventing and rapidly responding to a turbine fire in order to reduce the financial, environmental, and reputational impacts, the offshore wind industry has a new set of challenges that it must rise to.
When a fire ignites in a wind turbine, extinguishing it without having a fire suppression system installed is immensely challenging. Typically installed in remote and inaccessible locations, with turbines often more than 100m above the ground, getting fire trucks and crews to a position where they can douse flames is unlikely. If a crew could get into position and have the equipment to battle the fire, the multi-million-pound machine is likely to be a smoldering wreck. The ground crew will only be able to provide containment of the fire. This means that installing fire suppressions systems is all that more important.
Fires in both on and offshore wind turbines can have a devastating impact on developers, investors, and all advocates for clean energy. Whether it’s the reputational damage caused by a visible and photographable incident or the immediate environmental risks like the potential spread of wildfires, it’s clear that the sector must take fire risk seriously.