Wind Turbine Fires Underreported to Avoid Bad Publicity

According to Wind Power Monthlyan industry publication for the wind industry, the number of fires that occur with wind turbines is underreported because the industry hopes to avoid “reputational damage.” The article states:

“Industry-wide underreporting of fires at wind farms has led to poor risk mitigation and damage prevention strategies, a report from a fire suppression firm has found.

Firetrace International’s report, called In the Line of Fire, looks at the threat of wind farm fires amid changes in turbine technology and the climate. It draws insights from wind industry fire experts about how manufacturers, operators and investors can respond to an evolving threat of fire.

The fire specialist says that because of a lack of reporting and transparency around wind farm blazes, it is difficult to know how far off current estimates (ranging from 1 in 2,000 turbines to 1 in 15,000 ) are from the true number of fires each year, while many figures are more than five years out of date.

It identifies risks from global warming, ageing turbines, new materials, offshore giants and skills shortages.”

Wind turbine fires appear to be rare, but estimates of how frequently they occur vary widely, according to the article:

“Firetrace argues that there insurers and manufacturers’ reports of how often wind turbines catach fire “vary wildly”.

In 2020, Wind Power Engineering magazine estimated that one in 2,000 turbines would catch fire, while one in 10,000 was the figure offered by Fire Protection Engineering magazine in 2019.

And Firetrace cites an independent fire expert who says that the risk of a catastrophic fire, where a turbine is destroyed, is one in 15,000.

Firetrace added that if one in 2,000 turbines catches fire each year, it suggests that a typical wind farm with 150 turbines would be hit by one or two fires in 20 years of operation.”

More transparency is always better than less transparency. Wind turbine fires are problematic because according to the report, when a turbine fire takes hold then it’s impossible for firefighters to extinguish it. Therefore, the best long-term solution to reducing the risk of fire from the industry is for good data to be gathered and shared with stakeholders. Without good data, the industry cannot credibly claim it is a good neighbor, and townships have no incentive to trust the claims made by wind companies as to their safety.

While it is illegal to build a new nuclear or coal plant in Minnesota, wind turbines and solar panels are given a free pass on much of the environmental permitting that accompanies other projects. This double standard is hurting Minnesota’s economy, and the environment, by raising the cost of electricity for families and businesses, and by allowing projects to be built without a thorough environmental evaluation.