Turbine blaze study questioned

An academic study claiming turbine fires are a significant and under-reported problem for the wind sector was swiftly challenged by London-based industry body RenewableUK, which pointed to “questionable reliability” of its sources.

A team of researchers led by Imperial College London estimates that an average of 117 separate blazes occur annually in the word’s turbine fleet, which it claims is 10 times more than reported publicly.

The team’s newly-published study claims fire is responsible for up to 30% of turbine accidents, with lightning strikes the top cause.

Guillermo Rein, from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Imperial College London, said: “Fires are a problem for the industry, impacting on energy production, economic output and emitting toxic fumes. This could cast a shadow over the industry’s green credentials. Worryingly our report shows that fire may be a bigger problem than what is currently reported.”

However, the researchers admit that “by comparison, with other energy industries, fire accidents are much less frequent in wind turbines than other sectors such as oil and gas, which globally has thousands of fire accidents per year”.

RenewableUK said the industry welcomes any research that can help boost safety.

But its director of health and safety Chris Streatfeild said: “However, the industry would challenge a number of the assumptions made in the report, including the questionable reliability of the data sources and a failure to understand the safety and integrity standards for fire safety that are standard practice in any large wind turbine.”

The industry body points out that the researchers cite newspapers and anti-wind power groups among the sources for its research.

Streatfeild said: “Wind turbines are designed to international standards to meet mandatory health and safety standards including fire safety risks. State of the art monitoring systems ensure that the vast majority of turbine fires can be dealt with quickly and effectively.”