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Wind turbine installations are set to soar in regions such as South America, India, the Caribbean, and Africa. Projects in such regions are often characterized by hot climates, a focus on limiting costs, and turbines located in remote areas meaning addressing fire risk is essential.

There are a number of emerging wind markets around the world where turbine installations are expected to increase dramatically. Take South America as an example – as of 2021, South America had almost 30GW of wind energy installations, but the regions wind power market is forecast to register a compound annual growth rate of more than 7.9% during the period 2023 to 2028.

Rapid growth in wind energy capacity is also anticipated in India. The Global Wind Energy Council has said that the country could potentially add another 23.7 GW of wind capacity during the period 2022 to 2026. Similarly, the offshore wind market in the Caribbean Islands has significant potential – the World Bank has indicated that the region could potentially install 751GW of offshore wind. It’s the same story the continent of Africa is only tapping into 0.01% of its wind power potential, according to wind turbine manufacturer Siemens Gamesa.

Protecting Investment in Wind Assets

Many of the emerging markets in wind energy are to be found in some of the world’s poorest nations measured in terms of GDP per capita. Hence, such nations are more cost conscious when it comes to making investments in renewable energy. In Africa, for example, the costs associated with developing wind farms have been seen as one of the barriers to the wider deployment of wind energy. Consequently, it is vital that wind farm owners and operators do all they can to protect their investment in wind assets, and this includes guarding against fire risk.

Another consideration is that many countries in emerging wind markets – such as South America and Africa – are not densely populated and this means if a fire were to break out in a wind turbine it could be a significant amount of time before it is identified and extinguished. Indeed, if a fire occurs in a remote area, it may not be possible for a fire department to respond and they will likely only be able to monitor the fire to ensure it does not spread due to the height of the turbines. That is why it is important to be prepared and protected against known fire hazards.

Wildfires and Reputational Risk

 The longer a wind turbine fire is allowed to burn, the more likely it is to spread and this could have a devastating impact on the surrounding area. For example, one turbine fire in California caused a wildfire that burnt a total of 367 acres. Similar fires in emerging wind markets could result in significant reputational damage for the wind industry in countries where there may not yet be widespread public support for wind farms. For example, community opposition is hampering the wider deployment of wind energy in Africa.

 The climate in many emerging wind markets also exacerbates fire risk. Data shows that Africa is home to some of the hottest countries in the world – high levels of heat combined with wind can prove to be a dangerous combination that the wind industry must safeguard against fire.

How to Reduce Wind Farm Fire Risk

To reduce the risk of fire at a wind farm, it is advisable to conduct an effective fire risk assessment (FRA). An FRA will limit potential damage to your wind assets and mean you won’t incur millions in costs replacing turbines. Once a fire risk assessment is completed, the results should be shared with all stakeholders, including colleagues responsible for personnel safety, the operations teams and the finance team, as well as external providers of finance and insurance providers. 

How Technology Tackles Fire Risk

Among the technologies that are used for fire protection in wind turbines are fire detection, arc flash detection, and condition monitoring systems. While most technologies focus on fire prevention or detection, only fire detection and suppression systems mitigate fire damage once a fire has started. Firetrace systems target specific ignition sources in the wind turbine. This allows a flexible, modular approach to fire protection that can be customized for different turbine makes and models.

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