“Just let them burn and they will eventually burn out.” That was the advice provided by Joe Bocian, project manager for the Pinnacle wind project under construction on the top of the Allegheny Front above Keyser, WV, in the event of a wind turbine fire.
You might recall our concern that, while Edison’s “let it burn” emergency preparedness plan might work on the flat-lands, applying that logic to the isolated top of Green Mountain might be seriously problematic. We suspect a turbine “throwing fireballs” on the top of a mountain might be considered a very serious issue.
Well, a recent wind turbine fire in Texas might just tell you all you need to know. “Just after 10 o’clock Sunday night, Buffalo Gap, View and Ecca Volunteer Fire Departments responded to a fire at the Taylor County ranch of Texas House Representative Susan King. They used eight trucks to quickly contain the fire to about 2 acres.”
Think of that, folks! Rapid response with eight trucks to an easily reached flat area contained the fire to about 2 acres. I doubt you could get eight trucks to any one location on Green Mountain, let alone respond promptly. The potential on the Allegheny Front is dozens of acres.
The Texas Representative says she wants to help the volunteer fire company receive some kind of compensation for their time and effort. Excellent!
And how about the wind company? Next Era Energy, their friendly wind operator said, “We have supported each of these volunteer fire departments in the past financially to help them purchase needed equipment because we recognize the important work that they do.”
KTXS – Abilene checked that statement out with the local volunteers were told “they haven’t gotten help from Next Era in about 4 years.
Oh, by the way … this wasn’t their first fire.
What is concerning the project developer, US Wind Force and project owner and operator, Edison Mission Energy (EME), failure to conduct any community meetings regarding fire safety and high angle rescue training?
There is growing evidence that wind turbine incidents are increasing worldwide involving structural failures, catching fires, losing propeller parts, or shedding lumps of ice.
Public Service Commission of WV required, “Pinnacle must coordinate with appropriate fire, safety and emergency personnel during the preconstruction stage of the Project to promote efficient and timely emergency preparedness and response.” If such training exists then public records will show this evidence. Then again, no elected county commissioner member addressed issues related to fire and emergency services.
A transparent company can provide supporting legal evidence of training, orientation and agreement on response actions to emergency responder’s personnel for Keyser, New Creek, Piedmont, and Elk Garden Fire Departments. Such training would include fire prevention, suppression, and emergency rescue and will formally define the respective responsibilities of EME operators and owners, the district fire department and our county commissioners.
Edison Mission Energy professes safety oriented, but offering only a safety message at a community advisory meeting does not substitute certify training and well-written emergency management plan. A model plan should reflect best practices recommended by OSHA.
Industrial wind prevents unique hazards and risks. Let take a look at what we should see in the this emergency management plan
Date the project plan was developed, and who participated in writing the plan. The plan is annually reviewed. Does Mineral County Emergency Management Plan for Industrial Wind Incidents address the following?
• Structure and blade failures
• Ice throws
• Lighting strikes
• Confined space
• Fall protection
• Hazard material handling
• Equipment turn over from cranes, and buckling roads
What OSHA turbine training has our county fire and rescue unit received concerning accessing a victim, hoisting rescue equipment, and evacuation prior to the initial construction of this project. AFA would bet NO training or discussion. Who should be responsible for this specialized training? Who will bear the cost of this training? Does the county have a specialized high angle rescue team? Are they familiar with the hazards found in these confined spaces?
The average turbines can contain nearly 200 gallons of combustible materials, including hydraulic fluids, lubricating oils, and other fuel materials. Are MSDA available to county responders?
Has the Mineral County Commissioners examined preconstruction emergency management plan for the Pinnacle Wind Project?
With nearly 200 gallons of lubricating, hydraulic oils and combustible materials stored atop this poses a particular problem. We are sure the Department of Environmental Protection is concerned if this oil should flow into a stream or water body.
Are emergency responders prepared to deal with the harsh winter and wind elements should it a high angle rescue be required?
The Pinnacle Wind Project adjoins the Allegheny Wildlife Management Area. What happens if a fire can propagate to the surrounding vegetation? What happens if a misguided bullet strikes a turbine unit or worse a worker?
One would NOT EXPECT an experienced EME project manager representative to say, LET IT BURN ITSELF OUT.
Lets hope insurance companies and OSHA will take note of this irresponsible remark.
In direct testimony, October, 2009, Dave Friend, US Wind Force Pinnacle Wind Force president testified to the Public Service Commission of WV regarding the safety of wind turbines. Read his comforting statements and compare to reality.
Dave Friend: “Although it is still theoretically possible for a blade, or part of a blade, to separate from the turbine, it is a very unlikely.
Dave Friend: “Given the prevailing winds, the probability of the turbine falling toward the road is very low. Even if it did fall toward the road, the probability that the blade tip would be extended in the highest possible position at the point where it lands is low.”
This is reality: On the Morning of March 6, 2009, contractors working at the Noble Altona Windpark located in Clinton County, New York, were changing the settings on a bank of relays. The procedure resulted in the unintended loss of electric power at the facility, which consists of 65 turbines manufactured by General Electric (GE). The turbines are designed to automatically go into a “safe” mode upon loss of electric power and most of the turbines on the affected circuit (circuit #3) did so in response to the March 6 event. The two remaining units, designated as Turbines 42 and 59, did not move into safe mode. The rotor and blades of Turbine 42 spun at approximately three times the operational design speed, and blades apparently contacted the tower structure, which ultimately collapsed. Oil in the nacelle of the turbine caught fire and the unit was heavily damaged.
Dave Friend: “To the best of our knowledge, there have been no reported injuries from ice thrown from wind turbines anywhere in the world.”
This is reality: The Accumulation of ice is highly dependent on local weather conditions and the turbine’s operational state. Any ice that is accumulated may be shed from the turbine due to both gravity and the mechanical forces of the rotating blades. An increase in ambient temperature, wind, or solar radiation may cause sheets or fragments of ice to loosen and fall, making the area directly under the rotor subject to the greatest risks. In addition, rotating turbine blades may propel ice fragments some distance from the turbine — up to several hundred meters if conditions are right. Falling ice may cause damage to structures and vehicles, and injury to site personnel and the general public, unless adequate measures are put in place for protection.
Risk Mitigation The risk of ice throw must be taken into account during both project planning and wind farm operation. GE suggests that the following actions, which are based on recognized industry practices, be considered when siting turbines to mitigate risk for ice-prone project locations:
Turbine Siting: Locating turbines a safe distance from any occupied structure, road, or public use area. Some consultant groups have the capability to provide risk assessment based on site-specific conditions that will lead to suggestions for turbine locations. In the absence of such an assessment, other guidelines may be used. Wind Energy Production in Cold Climate provides the following formula for calculating a safe distance:
1.5 * (hub height + rotor diameter)