Specialist renewable energy underwriter, GCube Underwriting, recently launched a unique report into wind turbine fires. Towering Inferno is the latest in a series of reports for GCube’s insured and broker community, analyzing the root causes, impacts, and mitigation of turbine fires and downtime.
Fires are an infrequent occurrence in the global wind energy industry. The 300,000-strong international fleet of wind turbines sees just 50 turbine fires each year (a rate of 1:6000).
Wind turbine fires are greatly outnumbered by losses relating to blades and gearboxes, but when they happen most incidents lead to high-profile losses and cause major financial impacts. Media scrutiny, driven by the anti-wind lobby, has resulted in a disproportionate amount of negative national and international news coverage.
Even with the increasing use of fire suppression throughout the industry, turbine fire incidents typically result in the total or near-total loss of a multi-million dollar asset. GCube estimates that a turbine fire and its associated downtime will cost a project owner a total of $4.5 million on average.
This financial impact is exacerbated by the public’s perception of safety and the reputation and reliability of the wind industry as a whole.
Concerns about the safety of wind turbines have been fuelled further by recorded incidents of bush fires sparked by burning debris from turbine fires in high-risk locations such as South Australia and California. Similarly, as the number of projects increases in remote, forested regions of North America and Europe, so too does the risk of consequential forest fires.
Combined, these factors underscore a need for the industry to adopt a rigorous approach to preventative maintenance and active fire protection, detection, and suppression systems.
GCube’s new report was released in an effort to promote industry collaboration by quantifying the financial and market impact of a turbine fire by using a combination of proprietary claims data and publicly available news sources.
This analysis is combined with a breakdown of the internal and external root causes of a turbine fire – from lightning to human error – and suggestions for best-practices. It includes extensive interviews with claims specialist Renewable Energy Loss Adjusters (RELA) and fire-suppression expert Firetrace International.
Additionally, based on GCube’s experience helping its insureds manage the threat posed by bush fires to wind farms and the surrounding environment, the report includes unique recommendations for wind farm operators in hot, dry, and forested environments worldwide.
“While the vast majority of renewable energy losses escape the attention of the international media, it seems that, every few weeks, a turbine fire makes the headlines,” said Jatin Sharma, Head of Business Development at GCube and author of Towering Inferno. “For the owners, operators and insurers of wind farms, the thought of seeing a multi-million dollar asset go up in flames is already a sobering one. For the incident to subsequently be broadcast around the world is the stuff of nightmares.”
He added: “Faced with this increased scrutiny, and the long-term financial impact of a total turbine loss, we need to address the causes and consequences of turbine fire and, as a community, recognize that it affects each company in the industry rather than ‘affecting our competitors’. We cannot allow a handful of torched assets to become a symbol of our inability to work together.”
Filed Under: News, Safety