NORTH PERTH – Representatives from Invenergy Canada have responded to resident concerns over fire and ice safety concerns posed by wind turbines.
James Murphy, director of business development for Invenergy Canada, answered questions from The Banner via email after a resident approached North Perth council in January about the potential of fires in wind turbines. Murphy said Invenergy operates and maintains 1,300 turbines at 23 wind farms across North America, and that the Invenergy fleet has never experienced any major turbine fires. According to Murphy, a documented emergency response plan would be in place before any turbine construction would begin in the Conestogo Wind Energy project proposed for North and East Perth.
“Local emergency units will have access to this document along with site maps to allow for easy location of work locations,” Murphy said. “Local fire departments typically do not allow their employees in a turbine; therefore, we train only Invenergy staff in this discipline.”
Murphy added that Invenergy employees are trained in the use of fire extinguishers in the case of fires that can’t be suppressed by the turbine nacelle system.
“The nacelle systems don’t suppress large fires, but rather they suppress fires in cabinets,” he said.
“Technicians carry fire suppression equipment with them in the trucks at all times, and they carry this equipment with them on every climb up the tower.”
In the event that a wind turbine does catch fire and causes damage to neighbouring buildings or crops, Murphy said individual home owner’s insurance would cover this, the same way it would if a barn, car, house or other object caught fire and it spread.
Another concern expressed regarding wind turbines was the threat of ice cast from the spinning blades. Murphy said attention is paid to ice conditions during the winter season, and setbacks established by the Ministry of the Environment are followed to minimize public health risks.
“Our turbine layout takes icing into consideration, and we take common sense precautions to maintain safety for our workers and landowners when ice is present,” Murphy said. “Our setbacks from roads and occupied structures is in accordance with the provincial guidelines, and are expected to be sufficient to mitigate any potential damage related to ice throw.”
Murphy said ice conditions can vary from region to region, but is not unique to Ontario, with other wind turbine projects operating in northern states such as Michigan, Illinois and New York. Turbine controllers monitor wind speed, power output and atmospheric conditions, and shut down the turbine in response to excessive ice build-up.
“Ice on the turbine blades impacts the aerodynamic efficiency of the blades, causing the turbines to automatically shut down,” Murphy said. “Project components are designed to withstand extreme weather events, and can be shut down on site and remotely as required.”
Information centres for the Conestogo Wind Energy project will be open to the public on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 6 p.m. at the Perth East Recreation Centre in Milverton and Thursday, Feb. 28, 6 p.m. at the Royal Canadian Legion in Listowel.
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