With snow, ice and frigid weather, winter creates complications for renewable energy, as I wrote last week. But for Ralph Brokaw, a Wyoming rancher with both cows and wind turbines on his land, the worst hazard is not the ice that his blades can throw off in the winter.
Rather, it is lightning strikes on the towers, which usually occur in summer when there are more storms.
The effect is spectacular – and scary. “It will explode those blades, and they’ll throw chunks of blade several hundred feet,” Mr. Brokaw, a member of his local fire department, told me over the telephone.
As the chunks fall, the firefighters douse them with water. Otherwise, “There’s really not much you can do with a turbine that’s 200 foot tall and on fire,” he said.
Mr. Brokaw said that in the past five years he has been called to help put out two or three turbine fires. He said that “there’s oil and gearboxes and a tremendous amount of wiring” in the generator – so even though the turbines are very well-grounded, they can sometimes light up.
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