Clyde MacDonald: Forest fires and wind turbines: The danger no one is talking about

 

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Forest fires and wind turbines: The danger no one is talking about

Posted June 29, 2011, at 6:19 p.m.

Despite all that has been written about wind power, a vitally important issue has barely been mentioned. When turbines fail, blades may fall to the ground or send fragments that land up to a mile away. Turbines often catch fire, and when they do they often send flaming shards into fields and forests. Much has been said about the short-term jobs created in preparing turbine sites, but almost nothing about job losses from turbine-caused fires in our paper mills, sawmills and other forest-dependent industries.

 

Official information on the number and severity of turbine-induced forest fires remains largely secret and unavailable. Nonetheless, there are scattered media reports and one thorough description of the safety record of the Caithness USA Wind corporation with installations in the northwest. That one corporation experienced 110 serious wind turbine fires over a 20 year period, but there is no mention of whether some of those fires may have spread to adjacent areas.

 

Similarly, media references to 43 turbine fires, mostly in the U.S. and Europe, merely state “no details.” Many references do contain brief statements, such as that 22 fires were caused by lightning strikes, but again, no references to those fires spreading far from the sites. Only 25 of the reports mention that turbine fires had spread to fields and forests.

 

In California, one such fire burned 68 acres, another 220 acres, and in Palm Springs several “spot fires” had been generated in surrounding areas. In Hawaii, 95 acres were burned. Australia lost 80,000 acres of forests located mostly in a national park. Spain lost nearly 200 acres from one fire. A comment on a German fire mentioned that “burning debris” from a turbine had traveled several hundred meters from the site. In Holland, three burning blades from a mere 270-foot tower cast a 50-foot flaming shard 220 feet from the site.

 

The most dramatic report emanated from Wales where “great balls of fire” landed more than 150 yards away, causing a hillside to burn. Fearing more forest fires, an Australian province enacted a law banning placements of wind towers near wooded areas. Yet, in heavily forested Maine, all of our wind power sites have been approved without even considering that turbines have often caused forest fires.

 

It requires little imagination to foresee that 400-foot blazing turbines, located in the most heavily winded areas along steep mountain slopes, could easily shoot flaming debris into wooded areas.

 

Mere fire engines cannot douse turbine fires. In every report, firefighters had to allow the turbine fires to burn themselves out. All they could hope to do was prevent the fires from spreading to other areas. In Australia, California and Germany, massive firefighting equipment evidently came from nearby areas.

 

That 220-acre California fire had been contained by 45 firefighters, two helicopters and two bulldozers. The 69-acre fire was contained with the help of 15 fire engines, four hand crews and four planes. A 5-acre California fire was extinguished by six fire engines, three water trucks, two helicopters, two tanker planes, a bulldozer and three hand crews.

 

When Maine experiences turbine fires, one wonders what allowances have been made to buy, store, maintain and make use of such equipment. Where will the personnel and equipment be located? Who will pay for them? Has the Department of Environmental Protection and Land Use Regulation Commission required bonding or insurance policies that would cover the costs of forest losses and jobs in our woods-related industries?

 

We needed a moratorium that would have allowed us to study all questions related to the turbine-caused forest fire dangers, but the Maine Legislature recently rejected a moratorium proposal.

 

We may hope DEP and LURC will forgo further site approvals until these and other questions are answered satisfactorily. General Electric reportedly recently wrote to a potential wind developer that its newer turbines rarely catch fire, presumably unlike the older ones already in place. If true, should Maine’s agencies require the installation of GE turbines only?

 

Forest fires present another unanswered question and one more reason why our permitting agencies should forgo approving more wind turbine sites in Maine’s wooded areas for the remainder of this year.

 

Clyde MacDonald of Hampden was an aide to Sens. Edmund Muskie and George Mitchell.

 

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/06/29/opinion/forest-fires-and-wind...

 

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Comment by Penny Gray on May 13, 2015 at 12:42pm

Excellent information, Clyde MacDonald. Thank you.  The turbine fire at Kibby could have burned thousands of acres if it hadn't occured in winter when the ground was snow covered.  The fire was listed as an oil spill and reported only when a private pilot spotted the burned up nacelle.  I suppose the wind industry would argue that a large forest fire would provide jobs, jobs, jobs and boost the local economy?   Maine is the most forested state in the nation and her forests are among her biggest assets.  We should be capitalizing our valuable forests, not compromising them.

Hannah Pingree on the Maine expedited wind law

Hannah Pingree - Director of Maine's Office of Innovation and the Future

"Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine."

https://pinetreewatch.org/wind-power-bandwagon-hits-bumps-in-the-road-3/

 

Maine as Third World Country:

CMP Transmission Rate Skyrockets 19.6% Due to Wind Power

 

Click here to read how the Maine ratepayer has been sold down the river by the Angus King cabal.

Maine Center For Public Interest Reporting – Three Part Series: A CRITICAL LOOK AT MAINE’S WIND ACT

******** IF LINKS BELOW DON'T WORK, GOOGLE THEM*********

(excerpts) From Part 1 – On Maine’s Wind Law “Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine if the law’s goals were met." . – Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, August 2010 https://www.pinetreewatchdog.org/wind-power-bandwagon-hits-bumps-in-the-road-3/From Part 2 – On Wind and Oil Yet using wind energy doesn’t lower dependence on imported foreign oil. That’s because the majority of imported oil in Maine is used for heating and transportation. And switching our dependence from foreign oil to Maine-produced electricity isn’t likely to happen very soon, says Bartlett. “Right now, people can’t switch to electric cars and heating – if they did, we’d be in trouble.” So was one of the fundamental premises of the task force false, or at least misleading?" https://www.pinetreewatchdog.org/wind-swept-task-force-set-the-rules/From Part 3 – On Wind-Required New Transmission Lines Finally, the building of enormous, high-voltage transmission lines that the regional electricity system operator says are required to move substantial amounts of wind power to markets south of Maine was never even discussed by the task force – an omission that Mills said will come to haunt the state.“If you try to put 2,500 or 3,000 megawatts in northern or eastern Maine – oh, my god, try to build the transmission!” said Mills. “It’s not just the towers, it’s the lines – that’s when I begin to think that the goal is a little farfetched.” https://www.pinetreewatchdog.org/flaws-in-bill-like-skating-with-dull-skates/

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