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Lack of fire risk assessment standardisation “leaving wind farms industry exposed”

06 December 2021

A LACK of standardisation for fire risk assessments is leaving the wind farms industry exposed. That’s the key finding of a new report published by Firetrace International, the provider of fire suppression technology with systems in place across no less than 35 countries spanning five continents.

An effective fire risk assessment can make it less likely that life is endangered when fires occur at wind farms and will also reduce the risk of the surrounding area being impacted.

However, unlike the status quo prevailing in other power generating industries, it’s being reported that there’s a general reluctance among wind farm industry stakeholders to conduct fire risk assessment.

There are several reasons put forward for this, including an assumption that insurance will cover fire-related costs in addition to a lack of resources owing to the continued impact of COVID-19. Another reason being suggested for the lack of risk assessments being conducted is that the cost of repairing or replacing turbines damaged by fire is greatly underestimated. Also, at present there’s no legal requirement for operators to conduct fire risk assessments.

This means that there’s little evidence holistic fire risk assessments are being conducted that follow a type of recognised standard.

However, pressure will mount on wind farm owners and operators as the cost of replacing an individual turbine damaged by fire is becoming increasingly expensive, with 12-18 months of expected revenue loss and downtime to source replacement parts. An effective fire risk assessment can serve to protect investments and asset returns.

Methodology to be applied

In its latest report, entitled How To Evaluate Fire Risk at Wind Farms, Firetrace International sets out the methodology that wind farm owners and operators can apply in order to conduct effective fire risk assessments.

The report concludes that eight different internal and external stakeholders can benefit from having a copy of an operator’s fire risk assessment. The stakeholders include those responsible for safety, capital expenditure and negotiating insurance cover through to those in operations teams, external finance providers and the local Fire and Rescue Service. The report also sets out a Best Practice checklist for conducting fire risk assessments.

Angela Krcmar, global sales manager for the wind farm industry at Firetrace International, explained: “Effective fire risk assessments increase the level of protection for wind farm assets by reducing the risk of wind turbines being damaged or destroyed by fire, potentially reducing insurance costs and boosting the reputation of both the operator and the industry at large.”

Krcmar added: “Perhaps most significantly, fire risk assessments conducted at regular intervals can protect wind farm operators’ personnel working on-site and the communities surrounding those wind farms.”

Further, Krcmar observed: “Once assessments are complete and all stakeholders consulted, operators can work out the best ways in which to protect their people, operation, revenue and surrounding communities from fire, perhaps through detection or suppression systems.”

In conclusion, Krcmar stated: “It’s for the greater good of the entire wind farm industry, and energy transition generally, that fire risk is taken seriously.”