Maine wind turbine fire under investigation
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — An investigation into the cause of a fire that destroyed a wind turbine at New England’s largest wind farm is expected to wrap up within a month.
The Jan. 16 blaze, the first reported turbine fire in Maine, burned out the gear box at the top of one of the 44 turbine towers at the Kibby Wind farm in northern Franklin County, said Grady Semmens, spokesman for the company that owns the farm. Nobody was injured and the fire burned itself out before it could spread, he said.
The turbine appears to be beyond repair, Semmens said, but the company, TransCanada, hasn’t decided if it will be replaced.
The decision is “subject to the investigation in terms of the cause and what that’ll mean for a potential insurance claim,” he said.
Calgary, Alberta-based TransCanada doesn’t disclose the cost of its turbines, but a large, commercial-scale turbine could cost several million dollars. The entire Kibby Wind farm was built at a cost of $350 million.
TransCanada, an independent fire investigator and turbine-manufacturer Vestas are conducting the investigation.
A full inspection of the turbine was delayed because of snow and poor road conditions leading to the remote tower. It’s now expected to be completed within a month, Semmens said.
Vestas last year discovered an issue related to malfunctioning gear box bearings for a specific type of turbine installed at various wind farms around the world.
As a result, Vestas replaced 10 gear boxes at Kibby Wind farm last year and plans to replace five others this summer. The turbine that caught fire, however, was not among those affected by the gear box issue, said Vestas spokesman Andrew Longeteig.
Wind turbine fires are uncommon, but they’ve been reported elsewhere and can be spectacular when they do occur. The Kibby Wind turbines have built-in fire detection systems that automatically shut down the turbines in the event of a fire, Semmens said.
The 132-megawatt wind farm was completed in 2010 and has the capacity to generate enough power for about 50,000 homes. The turbine towers are 260 feet high, and the blades reach as high as 411 feet at highest point.