2020 was a year full of surprises and losses, and it left us with a final destructive parting gift — three turbine fires that made the news within a span of just 11 days. One of the fires occurred on Christmas Day and caused more than a few people to respond to the fire instead of spending the holiday with their family.
3 Wind Turbine Fire Incidents in the US
The purpose of this analysis is to raise awareness of fires, inform stakeholders of what to expect after a fire, and suggest ways to prevent wind turbine fires from occurring again.
The three wind turbine fires that made the news are:
- Fire #1 - Roundhouse Wind Farm in Wyoming, US
- Fire #2 – Harvest II Wind Farm in Michigan, US
- Fire #3 – Locust Ridge Wind Farm in Pennsylvania, US
It’s possible that even more fires occurred in this short stretch because many wind turbine fires do not make the news like all of these did.
What Each Company Can Expect in the Coming Months
Nobody wants to watch their turbines burn for hours, knowing they will suffer a total loss of the turbine and have months of headaches dealing with the investigation and payouts. After all is said and done, wind turbine fires and the resulting investigation and replacement can cost $7-8 million and take a year to complete.
Root Cause Analysis
After a fire event, a root cause analysis is important. It can identify an underlying issue that may put other turbines in your fleet at a higher risk of fire. The root cause analysis can also be used by insurance to determine who is at fault and how claims are handled and dispersed.
Asking and Answering a Lot of Questions
The businesses that experienced the fires can expect to hear a lot of questions for the next few months. Investors, internal management, insurers, customers, and the general public all want to hear more information about the fire event. Nobody benefits from a wind turbine fire. These stakeholders all want to see turbines safely producing clean energy to support communities.
Increases to Insurance Rates
If the root cause analysis determines the turbine owners and/or operators are at fault, they can expect increases to insurance rates — whether it is in the form of premiums, deductibles, or restrictions in cover. Premiums have increased 20-30 percent across the industry in the past few years because of large claims, so events like these could cause that trend to continue for these businesses.
Fewer Resources for Other Business Activities
The number one priority of an energy-producing company is not to investigate fires after they occur, but rather to produce energy. Post-fire activities can drain a company’s resources, which could otherwise be used to generate revenue and minimize costs elsewhere.
More Opponents of Wind Energy
There are entire communities waiting to find any bad news on wind turbines and are keen on sharing it with the world. All three of these events likely ended up on anti-wind internet forums and social media. Whether these organizations share these events because they are pro-fossil fuel or simply concerned landowners, being more proactive about fires will prevent them from damaging the wind industry's reputation.
Were These Fires Preventable?
Until the root cause analyses are complete, there is no way of knowing if these fires were preventable or not. Even after a root cause analysis, the cause of the fire can remain unclear. Sometimes the initial event that led to a fire is not preventable. An example is a power surge from lightning that overheats a converter cabinet. However, several technologies can prevent or fight a resulting fire without human intervention.
Preventing Wind Turbine Fires From Happening to You
To minimize the risk of a fire loss, turbine owners can opt for several risk mitigation technologies. A few examples are fire detection and suppression systems, arc detection systems, lightning protection systems, and condition monitoring systems.
To learn more about protecting your wind turbines from fire, you can read the Complete Guide to Wind Turbine Fire Protection. Also, you can learn about how fire suppression can benefit you in managing your wind turbines.
Benefits of Wind Turbine Fire Protection
Fire protection can be the difference between one day of downtime or one year of downtime, as well as millions of dollars. For less than 1% of the cost of a multi-million dollar turbine, wind turbine owners can have the peace of mind that their turbines are protected from fire and the headaches that follow.
With fire protection, fires turn from painful, months-long events to celebrations of successful saves. You can read about how a Firetrace fire suppression system saved a major O&M business' turbine by suppressing a converter cabinet fire in the nacelle.
To discuss wind turbine fire risks and learn how you can protect your wind turbines from fire, contact Firetrace today.