Monday, January 9, 2012

Wind Turbine in Scotland Bursts Into Flames During Hurricane Force Winds

Powerful winds have been howling through the UK for the past couple days, and one $3 million wind turbine was an unexpected casualty of the storm. A 328-foot tall turbine in Ardrossan, North Ayrshire, Scotland burst into flames after high winds caused the blades to start turning too fast. Most turbines are built with mechanisms that shut their generators off if winds become too strong but it looks like this Ardrossan turbine lost control and blew through any such safety precautions.

“This was a small fire which lasted a short time,” a spokesman for RenewableUK, which represents the UK wind industry, told ReChargeNews. The wind turbine was part of a 30MW 15-turbine farm that was sold in 2010 to Infinis for $77.4 million. Infinis is the largest producer of landfill gas in the UK and it decided to break into the wind industry with the Ardrossan project, which bumped the company’s total wind capacity to 75MW. The Ardrossan wind farm supplies green energy to over 20,000 homes in Scotland.

The wind farm was built in 2005 and expanded in 2008 – there’s no word yet on whether the fiery turbine was part of the 2005 or 2008 construction. Though the fire didn’t cause major destruction and it seems to have been put out quite quickly, it does raise questions about the safety mechanisms built into turbines. Most turbines have mechanisms that turn off their generators in winds that reach upwards of 45 miles per hour and feather the blades inward so that the surface area facing the wind decreases.

Turbines are generally sold with the promise that they’ll withstand category 5 hurricanes but it looks like they can’t all walk the high wind walk. The silent, collapsable, Eco Whisper wind turbines from Renewable Energy Solutions Australia — they are built on hinges and can be lowered horizontally toward the ground to escape high winds — are looking more attractive after this recent blaze.

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