Black smoke was highly visible between Trent and Sweetwater Monday as a wind turbine at the Trent Wind Farm caught fire.
Sweetwater Fire Chief Grant Madden said crews from his department and from the Trent Volunteer Fire Department were sent to the location just south of Interstate 20 and east of Lake Sweetwater at 10 a.m.
“There was no need for us to go up in the turbine so we didn’t,” Madden said. “We stayed well enough away and controlled the grass fires from the falling embers and fiberglass.”
Fire officials aren’t sure whether the cause of the fire was an overheated bearing on the motor or an electrical problem, but Madden said “normally it’s a bearing.”
The wind farm is owned by GE Power, Madden said.
“They (GE officials) won’t know for a while (what caused the fire) because they wait until it cools down and check the structural stability before they even go up (the turbine).” Madden said. “The fire went down a hill a little bit. It was right on the edge of the mesa so the wind did blow some of the fiberglass down a little bit on the face of the hill there.”
Due to recent rains, the area was not too dry and firefighters were able to contain the blaze to a small area.
“We don’t get near the turbine when it’s burning because pieces fall off and sometimes big pieces fall off,” Madden pointed out. “I doubt it was two acres that burned. If it all burned underneath, there probably would have been about an acre-and-a-half to two acres, but I doubt seriously that even one acre burned.”
In October 2011, volunteer firefighters from the Elm Creek Citizens Association, Buffalo Gap and View put out a wind turbine blaze, which fire officials said sparked a grass fire in the Callahan Divide Wind Energy Center. The fire was the second turbine blaze in the area during that time.
West Texas has more than 2,000 wind turbines, and the number continues to increase as development costs fall and wind turbine technology improves. More than $1 billion in new investment is pending for 2013 construction.
The fire Monday was limited to a single turbine. The last firetruck left the scene some three hours after the initial call.
No injuries were reported.