EUSTIS – A spokesman from TransCanada has confirmed that there was a fire in one of the turbines in the Kibby Wind Project Jan. 16.
Grady Simmons, a Communication and Media Relations manager for the company, stated that the late evening fire was detected by smoke alarms in the turbine. The alarm was sent to a control center and the turbine was shut down.
The next morning, a TransCanada employee came to report on the damage. There was reportedly a lot of damage to the turbine rendering it useless.
The fire burned itself out and there was no damage outside of the turbine. When asked why the Eustis Fire Department wasn’t called, Simmons stated that “the fire was self-contained; if it were a larger or more serious fire, the authorities would have been notified.”
Simmons stated that there is no reason to be worried about summer fires. The turbines are made to be self-contained and if a “piece of the turbine were to fall to the ground while on fire, each turbine is on a gravel pad to ensure safety.”
Samantha Warren, Director of Media Relations for the Maine Department of Environmental Services, stated that TransCanada had no obligation to report the fire under current regulations. However, the fire was reported on the day it happened via the DEP’s Oil and Hazardous Spill line because there was concern that oil or coolant from the turbine may have spilled onto the ground. Warren stated that this is the first reported fire involving a wind turbine in Maine. “The department is looking into developing appropriate environmental protection regulations regarding turbine fires,” she said.
According to Warren, Bill Hamilton, the Maine Forest Service Forest Ranger Chief, stated that a fly-over was conducted April 16 to determine if the fire had projected any pieces into the nearby woods. If pieces had, it would help Forest Services understand patterns in case this sort of incident happens in the summer when the forest is more vulnerable to wildfires.
Simmons stated that even with the burnt turbine down, they were running at full capacity. “Not every turbine is operational at any given time, but we are still generating 132 megawatts of energy,” stated Simmons, “Turbines are turned off when the wind is too low for them to run efficiently or too high for them to run safely.” About 33 percent of the 43 remaining turbines run at a time. The others are shut down for maintenance or other reasons.
TransCanada is the lone owner of the Kibby Wind Project. They are operational partners with Vestas Wind Systems. TransCanada has a five-year operational contract with Vestas. That contract is up in 2014 and negotiations to renew it are underway. “TransCanada plans on owning the Kibby wind project well into the future,” Simmons stated.
Kibby is the only wind project in the United States run by TransCanada. Statewide there are currently 12 operational wind projects in Maine and three going through the permitting process.
The Kibby project was permitted by the Land Use Regulation Committee, which became the Land Use Planning Commission. Oversight of grid scale wind projects, as well as other large projects, was turned over to the DEP during 2012 when LUPC was formed.
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