Tackling fire risk in the wind sector

News Editor

Thorough and regular fire risk assessments can help protect people and communities as well as prevent costs up to $9 million per turbine
 A lack of standardisation for fire risk assessments is leaving the wind industry exposed, a report by Firetrace, a leading provider of fire suppression technology with systems in place across 35 countries in five continents, has found.
An effective fire risk assessment (FRA) can make it less likely that life is endangered when fires occur at wind farms and will also reduce the risk of the surrounding area being impacted.
Yet, unlike in other power generating industries, it is reported that there is a general reluctance among wind industry stakeholders to conduct FRAs. This is due to several reasons:
1.     An assumption that insurance will cover fire related costs
2.     A lack of resource – owing to the continued impact of Covid-19
3.     The cost of repairing or replacing turbines damaged by fire is greatly underestimated
4.     There is no legal requirement for operators to conduct FRAs.
This means that there is little evidence that holistic FRAs are being conducted that follow a type of recognised standard.
However, pressure will mount on owners and operators as the cost of replacing an individual turbine damaged by fire is becoming increasingly expensive and can now cost up to $9 million, with 12-18 months of expected revenue loss and downtime to get replacement parts. An effective fire risk assessment can therefore protect investments and asset returns.
In its latest report, entitled How to evaluate fire risk at wind farms, Firetrace sets out the methodology that wind farm owners and operators can apply to conduct effective fire risk assessments (FRAs).
The report concludes that eight different internal and external stakeholders can benefit from having a copy of an operator’s fire risk assessment. From those responsible for safety, capital expenditure, and negotiating insurance cover, to those in operations teams, external finance providers and the local fire department. It also sets out a checklist for the best practice in conducting fire risk assessments.
Angela Krcmar, Global Sales Manager – Wind, Firetrace International, said: “Effective fire risk assessments increase the level of protection for wind farm assets by reducing the risk of wind turbines being damaged or destroyed by fire, potentially reducing insurance costs and boosting the reputation of both the operator and the industry at large.
“But perhaps most significantly, fire risk assessments - conducted at regular intervals - can protect operators’ personnel working on-site and the communities surrounding wind farms.”
Angela continues: “Once assessments are complete and all stakeholders consulted, operators can work out the best ways to protect their people, operation, revenue and surrounding communities from fire – perhaps through detection or suppression systems.
“It is for the greater good of the whole wind industry, and the energy transition generally, that fire risk is taken seriously.”

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