Friday, 9 December 2011

Fiery stuff

An unamed renewables energy expert has classed the fire that destroyed a turbine at Adrossan yesterday as a freak occurrence. Should you not have seen the video, here it is (a still from the video was emblazoned across the front of many newspapers this morning):

It seems rather odd to me that this has been so quickly classified as a freak occurrence. The investigators must have worked very quickly indeed to establish the cause of the fire - assuming there were any (investigators that is). Unfortunately, there seem to be quite a few 'freak occurrences' of turbine fires. The following YouTube playlist shows eight fires and two turbine tower collapses:

It is worth remembering that these are only the accidents that have been caught 'on film' and reported on YouTube - generally because somebody happened to have a camera or 'phone handy. I am willing to admit that accidents are not run of the mill, but to suggest fires and failures are freak occurences really is insulting people's intelligence. Astute observers will note that the fires in the video sequence occur in a variety of weather conditions - just in case somebody tries to classify turbine fires as things that can only happen during 10-year storm occurrences. And no, the strong winds yesterday did not cause the Ardrossan turbine fire despite what the BBC article headlines, it was caused by a mechanical or electrical defect in the turbine concerned. If this wasn't the case and the fire was caused by the wind, why didn't all of the turbines at Ardrossan burst into flames? Good grief, the BBC really does need to review its editorial control.

The renewables industry doesn't like to talk about things that go wrong. Instead of openness and honesty, a cloak of secrecy generally surrounds such incidents - although its pretty difficult to hide a bonfire 330 feet in the air. In the aviation industry there is generally no such secrecy; the industry does try to learn from its mistakes and moves on. The same cannot be said for manufacturers of these pieces of industrial machinery and their operators who prefer the 'clean and green' image to this rather ugly reality. I do not take great enjoyment in wallowing in the shadow of these events, but I am growing very weary of the ridiculous attempts of the industry to pretend that these incidents are nothing to worry about. They are.