Fire in Wind Turbines

Wind power is an exciting emerging sector that needs those of us involved in fire safety to get on board. As electricity generation becomes more reliant on renewable energy, wind power is becoming increasingly important in the energy mix. As our reliance on wind turbines grows, keeping them fully operational and at reduced levels of risk is becoming more important, and as a result, so is safety management. There are over 340,000 wind turbines around the world; yet the vast majority of turbines have no fire suppression system installed.

The fires in wind turbines not only lead to a loss of business continuity and a negative impact on the company’s reputation but also, most importantly, are a critical safety issue. Possibly harmful debris can drift into the wind in the event of a fire and there is also a significant risk to human lives. When turbines are under construction, commissioning maintenance and repair, escape routes for operators are often long and vertical.

A recent report found that three out of six incidents studied involved a human presence in the nacelle*3; hence, a fire becomes a safety concern.  In 2013, a crew of four engineers died in Ooltgensplaat, Netherlands in a wind turbine fire. This devastating loss of life calls for improved review of fire safety to minimise the risk to engineers.

A dynamic system needs monitoring.  The reality is that gaseous systems are checked for contents annually because they are pressurised and anything that is dynamic offers risk of loss of contents, but this fails to deal with the probability of discharge or leakage for the 364 days per annum in the interim between certification checks.

If the hazard is special and the infrastructure critical then this is the case for the constant monitoring of the suppression systems that aim to deliver the protection of them. Inspection should include an evaluation that the extinguishing system continues to provide adequate protection for the risk.

For regular inspection, there are solutions such as the Portalevel® MAX. This handheld ultrasonic liquid level indicator can service a cylinder in 30 seconds (in contrast to 15 minutes by traditional manual weighing) with accuracy of up to 1.5mm off the true liquid level.

Coltraco Ultrasonics provide smart Firetest® solutions that enable wind turbine owners and operators to improve their fire safety management and reduce the risks to human life, business continuity caused by any downtime and thus minimise risk to reputation by delivering a Safesite®.

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