May 24, 2024

Twisting in the Wind


Wind turbines are impressive structures. At times towering over 300’ tall, their blades measure over 100’ long apiece and the tips of those spinning blades can reach speeds of 180 miles per hour. These machines are an efficient means of producing environmentally-preferable power, and the U.S. has experienced a boom in turbine construction in recent years. In fact, the amount of wind power generated in the United States has increased by over 700% in the past ten years, and as of 2016 it led the world in total wind energy production.

Even more impressive-looking than wind turbines are wind turbine fires, and these events get a lot of attention as a result. A Google search turns up thousands of awe-inspiring photos and videos of these machines on fire, along with news stories about the incidents. That same search will also bring up websites of anti-wind-energy groups who use such incidents to fuel hyperbolic claims that we should be living in fear of these structures. So how bad is the issue of wind turbine fires, really?

It’s hard to say exactly. According to the frequently-cited Caithness Windfarm Information Forum (CWIF) there are around 20 total onshore wind turbine fires per year. However, the British newspaper The Telegraph reported in 2014 that these fires may be 10 times more common than CWIF’s statistics claimed, citing data from an Imperial College (London) report and Renewable UK. Clean energy insurer GCube’s estimate is somewhere in the middle ground, claiming 50 incidents a year in their 2015 report Towering Inferno.

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