In recent years, several wind turbines in Europe have suffered severe damage from fires. For example, four employees were killed in a fire at a wind farm in the Netherlands in 2013—two of whom died because they were caught at the top of the turbine when a fire suddenly broke out.
And in August this year, a fire started in a large wind turbine in the German town of Isselburg and continued to burn for hours because firefighters simply do not have the material to deal with fires in such locations.
Fires in wind turbines—both on land and offshore—have huge human, financial and environmental consequences. That is why a number of international researchers have teamed up to investigate what causes fires in wind turbines, and to determine how to improve fire safety.
“In recent years we have witnessed some extremely serious fires in turbines at various locations in Europe, and in the worst cases they have even cost human lives. Over and above the purely human consequences, these fires have also resulted in financial and environmental costs because fire can easily spread. To guard more efficiently against fire in the future, we need to find out more about how and why fires start— which is precisely what we are looking to do through this research project,” relates Anne Dederichs, Associate Professor at DTU Civil Engineering and Senior Research Scientist at SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden, who is participating in the new project to research fire safety in wind turbines.
Both active and passive fire protection to be included
In the field of fire safety it is common to refer to two different types of safety measures: active and passive fire protection.
Active fire protection comprises a range of measures designed to spot signs of fire quickly and efficiently, to warn staff and rescue workers, and to activate a fire-extinguishing system.
Passive fire protection refers to achieving safety through design. This involves aspects such as choice of materials, dividing space into compartments and implementing other measures intended to reduce the risk of combustion and to limit the spread of fire.
Both types of safety measures have a key role to play in wind turbine fire safety. At present, however, little research has been done into how fires actually break out—and spread—in wind turbines. The intention of the new project is to fill this gap in knowledge, and to focus on different methods for both active and passive fire protection with a view to improving fire safety in wind turbines.