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Vestas wind turbine catches fire in Germany

Vestas Wind Systems A/S (VWS), the world’s largest wind-turbine maker, said a V112 3.0-megawatt turbine caught fire today at the Gross Eilstorf wind farm in Lower Saxony, Germany. No injuries were reported.

The cause of the 3 p.m. blaze, which is burning out under “controlled conditions,” hasn’t been determined, the Aarhus, Denmark-based company said in a statement. The turbine, a new model for Vestas, was disconnected from the grid and three nearby V112 turbines were shut for safety reasons, it said.

With many potential causes, “we can’t start any investigation until we have a chance to look at the turbine and in order to do that we have to get to the nacelle,” Andrew Hilton, a spokesman for the company, said of the casing on the tower that houses the turbine’s power-generating components.

The company will survey the damage more intensely tomorrow, Hilton said by phone from Aarhus. The site is in the countryside, not in a residential area, he said.

A fire at such a machine could lead to a potential loss of 300,000 euros to 400,000 euros ($400,000-$533,000) per year, according to Fraser McLachlan, chief executive officer of GCube Underwriting Ltd., an insurer of renewable energy projects.

“You do get fires occasionally and it comes with the territory,” McLachlan said. The turbine could take at least a year to replace, he said by phone.

In its statement, Vestas said it’s important to note the company “has over 46,000 turbines operating, and these types of accidents are very rare.”

Vestas, whose shares have declined 8.7 percent this year, expects a first assessment tomorrow and will release results of that when completed, the company said.

There is no risk to 13 other machines still operating at the park, Vestas said.

[NWW note:  Could the cause of the fire be the new “Cooler Top” design, meant to save energy consumption, not being adequate protection against overheating?]