The UK is the windiest country in Europe and the growth in offshore and inshore wind turbine capacity has seen wind power delivering a growing percentage of the energy of the country.
As of February 2018, there are 8,680 wind turbines with a total installed capacity of over 18.4 gigawatts. This growing reliance on wind generation underlines the importance of minimising the number of days lost due to accidents, repairs and maintenance work.
The most common accident with wind turbines is blade failure followed by fire. Fires can start when flammable materials such as hydraulic oil and other combustible materials are near to hot machinery or electrical equipment. Oils can ignite if the gearbox or generator overheat, and strong winds can potentially aggravate the flames. Lightning strikes can also cause a fire. Because of the height of onshore wind turbines, the fire service can do not much more than watch the fire burn from the ground.
A fire poses a risk to workers and results in a turbine being out of action. Wind turbines are expensive and highly technical machines. In order to pay back the financial investment made they need to remain in continuous service for a number of years, even a small fire could threaten this.
Precautions can and should be put in place to protect against fire damage. These include use of fire resistant hydraulic fluids and lubricant oils, installing monitoring systems and fitting fire suppression systems. However traditional total flooding fire suppression systems may not always be suitable for the remote and ventilated risks that turbines create. They may also be too large or heavy to be installed near the risk area. Automated fire suppression systems that use pneumatics instead of electronics offer the most robust, easy and reliable way to protect wind turbines. As well as quickly detecting a fire they rapidly suppress the fire at the point therefore the financial implications of a wind turbine fire are kept to a minimum.