Our Guide To Fire Suppression Systems For Wind Turbines
Fire protection for wind turbines poses unique risks. A wind turbine might catch fire because of engine failure. When this happens, it generates heat or causes flammable materials inside the turbine to spark. A wind farm might have one or two fires over its lifetime; since there is no formal reporting process for fire incidents, concrete numbers are scarce.
A 2015 report by Towering Inferno and GCube might provide insights. They cited 50 wind turbine incidents in their study—substantial since a wind turbine costs $4.5M each, and the larger the turbine, the more expensive it is. Here are other things to note about turbine fire safety.
What Are The Hazards & Risk Factors Of Turbines?
Wind turbines are usually 300 ft tall, and each blade is 100 ft long. As such, it’s nearly impossible to put out a wind turbine fire with typical methods. The composite materials in the blades and nacelle walls are highly combustible—add to this the about 235 gallons of lubricating oil and other combustible liquids in the nacelle, and you have a tinderbox.
Electrical faults and arcs can happen in the nacelle, while the gearbox, brake system, transformer, generator, and pumps can all ignite a fire. Poorly-maintained lightning prevention systems—or not having fail-safes—can cause fires from lightning strikes.
How Do You Prevent Wind Turbine Fires?
In many countries, there are local fire protection standards for wind turbines. However, there is no international mandated standard; the closest is NFPA 850, and it recommends best practices for high-voltage converter stations or electric generating plants.
Also, having a fire suppression system for a wind turbine gives the device more protection. Here are some options for suppression systems.
Water-Based Fire Suppression for Wind Turbines
Sprinklers, foam water, and water mist are all types of water-based fire suppression. Though these are best for specific applications, they are not ideal for wind turbines. First of all, this type of system needs a steady supply of water. The remote location of wind farms makes it difficult to get water to them. What’s more, it can be difficult to pump water to the turbine’s height. It is possible to store water in the nacelle, but this type of system needs more maintenance. Mist systems could also deal some damage to the nacelle components.
Carbon Dioxide-Based Systems
A CO2-based system needs an airtight nacelle. When you have an airtight environment, this type of system can penetrate inside components and equipment, successfully suppressing the fire within seconds.
Gas-based systems need regular monitoring, especially of CO2 levels, to ensure no leaks. CO2 leaks pose a considerable risk to humans. These systems need lock-out tag-out measures so people stay safe while accessing them. The upside is that CO2 does not leave residue and won’t affect electrical components.
Aerosol-Based Suppression Systems
This low-maintenance system relies on fine solid particles and gaseous matter. It also provides total protection. An aerosol-based system is safer on the environment but can leave a residue that damages essential parts of the nacelle. Like CO2, it is also unsafe in occupied areas.
Suppression Using Clean Agents
Using suppression systems with clean agents like Chemours FM-200 and 3M Novec 1230 is one of the best ways to protect wind turbines. They do not take up too much space, and they require no electricity when operating. What’s more, you can route the detection tubing around the areas you want to protect, making them less prone to fires. This kind of system is also less prone to false activation, is safe in confined spaces, and does not leave a residue.
A 2014 report from the International Association for Fire Safety Science said that 90 per cent of wind turbine fires resulted in the total loss or severe structural failures of the wind turbine. These devices are a significant investment, so installing fire suppression systems is essential in preventing the fire from spreading. Selecting the best system for a wind turbine depends on the situation, the type of equipment, and the hazards in the environment.
Learn the basics of fire awareness when you sign up for NRS Training Services’ GWO Basic Safety Training. Apart from fire safety, our delegates undergo courses in working at height, manual handling, and more. We are in Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Scotland; book your training today or contact us for enquiries.