Study backed by Imperial College finds wind turbines prone to "catastrophic" fires but the true scale of the problem is unknown
Wind turbines may catch on fire ten times more often than is publicly reported, putting nearby properties at risk and casting doubt on their green credentials, researchers have warned.
The renewable energy industry keeps no record of the number of turbine fires, meaning the true extent of the problem is unknown, a study backed by Imperial College London finds on Thursday.
An average of 11.7 such fires are reported globally each year, by media, campaign groups and other publicly-available sources, but this is likely to represent just the “tip of the iceberg”.
There could in fact be 117 turbine fires each year, it argues, based on analysis showing just 10pc of all wind farm accidents are typically reported.
Fires tend to be “catastrophic”, leading to turbines worth more than £2 million each being written off, because the blazes occur so high up that they are almost impossible to put out, it warns.
Turbines are prone to catching on fire because their design puts highly flammable materials such as hydraulic oil and plastic in close proximity to machinery and electrical wires, which can ignite a fire if they overheat or are faulty.
“Lots of oxygen, in the form of high winds, can quickly fan a fire inside a turbine,” it says. “Once ignited, the chances of fighting the blaze are slim due to the height of the wind turbine and the remote locations they are often in.”
It warns: “Under high wind conditions, burning debris from the turbine may fall on nearby vegetation and start forest fires or cause serious damage to property.”
The main causes of fires are lightning strikes, electrical malfunction, mechanical failure, and errors with maintenance, it finds.
This is possibly the most damning of the many articles on wind farms that I have seen and posted in recent years, and it is informative rather than a diatribe.
The developing fashion in this heavily subsidised industry has been to build ever higher and larger in terms of blade circumference, on the basis that these Jules Verne-style monsters would be more efficient. Yes, at an enormous cost, both initial and ongoing, not least as they are much more likely to be struck by lightening.
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