Summary of Wind Turbine Accident

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Statystyka katastrof elektrowni wiatrowych

Summary of Wind Turbine Accident data to 31st March 2012

These accident statistics are copyright Caithness Windfarm Information Forum 2012. The data may be used or referred to by groups or individuals, provided that the source (Caithness Windfarm Information Forum) is acknowledged and our URL www.caithnesswindfarms.co.uk quoted at the same time. Caithness Windfarm Information Forum is not responsible for the accuracy of Third Party material or references.

You may link to this page from your website but
please do not link to the individual files or reproduce the tables on your website

as they will cease to be current.

The summary may be downloaded in printable form here

The detailed accident list with sources may be downloaded here
Please note: some links in this list do not work just by clicking on them, specifically those which run over more than one line without a hyphen. If you get a broken link try copying and pasting into your browser, making sure you include the full .url.

The attached detailed table includes all documented cases of wind turbine related accidents which could be found and confirmed through press reports or official information releases up to 31 March 2012. CWIF believe that this compendium of accident information may be the most comprehensive available anywhere.

Data in the detailed table attached is by no means fully comprehensive – CWIF believe that what is attached may only be the “tip of the iceberg” in terms of numbers of accidents and their frequency. Indeed on 11 December 2011 the Daily Telegraph reported that RenewableUK confirmed that there had been 1500 wind turbine accidents and incidents in the UK alone in the past 5 years. Data here reports only 142 UK accidents from 2006-2010 and so the figures here may only represent 9% of actual accidents.

The data does however give an excellent cross-section of the types of accidents which can and do occur, and their consequences. With few exceptions, before about 1997 only data on fatal accidents has been found.

The trend is as expected – as more turbines are built, more accidents occur. Numbers of recorded accidents reflect this, with an average of 6 accidents per year from 1992-96 inclusive; 22 accidents per year from 1997-2001 inclusive; 70 accidents per year from 2002-06 inclusive, and 132 accidents per year from 2007-11 inclusive.

This general trend upward in accident numbers is predicted to continue to escalate unless HSE make some significant changes – in particular to protect the public by declaring a minimum safe distance between new turbine developments and occupied housing and buildings.

Some countries are finally accepting that industrial wind turbines can pose a significant public safety risk. In New Zealand, the government is set to change planning rules to give residents the right to veto wind turbines from being built within 2km of their homes. In Australia, the Victorian government has set guidelines forbidding wind turbine construction closer than 2km to houses. In Scotland, a 2km guideline is also in place between large wind farm developments and communities, though the guideline is often disgracefully ignored by the Scottish government planners. And in Canada, the Ontario Government has declared a moratorium on offshore wind projects and has proposed a reduction of noise from wind turbines from 40dB to 30-32dB, which would effectively extend the setback distance from homes.

Data attached is presented chronologically. It can be broken down as follows:

Number of accidents

Total number of accidents: 1208

By year:

 

Year

70s

80s

90s

00

01

02

03

04

05

06

07

08

09

10

11

12*

No.

1

9

98

30

17

70

66

59

71

82

124

130

130

119

158

44

 

* To 31 March 2012 only

 

Fatal accidents

Number of fatal accidents: 89

By year:

 

Year

70s

80s

90s

00

01

02

03

04

05

06

07

08

09

10

11

12*

No.

1

8

15

3

1

4

4

4

5

5

10

7

7

13

2

 

* To 31 March 2012 only

Please note: There are more fatalities than accidents as some accidents have caused multiple fatalities.

Of the 102 fatalities:

  • 70 were wind industry and direct support workers (maintenance/engineers, etc), or small turbine owner/operators.
  • 32 were public fatalities, including workers not directly dependent on the wind industry (e.g. transport workers).

 

Human injury

102 accidents regarding human injury are documented.

By year:

 

Year

70s

80s

90s

00

01

02

03

04

05

06

07

08

09

10

11

12*

No.

5

4

1

2

2

2

6

10

16

16

9

14

12

3

 

* To 31 March 2012 only

84 accidents involved wind industry or construction/maintenance workers, and a further 18 involved members of the public or workers not directly dependent on the wind industry (e.g. fire fighters, transport workers). Six of these injuries to members of the public were in the UK.

 

Blade failure

By far the biggest number of incidents found was due to blade failure. “Blade failure” can arise from a number of possible sources, and results in either whole blades or pieces of blade being thrown from the turbine. A total of 234 separate incidences were found:

By year:

 

Year

70s

80s

90s

00

01

02

03

04

05

06

07

08

09

10

11

12*

No.

35

4

6

15

13

15

12

16

22

20

26

20

18

12

 

* To 31 March 2012 only

Pieces of blade are documented as travelling over 1300 metres. In Germany, blade pieces have gone through the roofs and walls of nearby buildings. This is why CWIF believe that there should be a minimum distance of at least 2km between turbines and occupied housing or work places – in order to adequately address public safety and other issues including noise and shadow flicker.

 

Fire

Fire is the second most common accident cause in incidents found. Fire can arise from a number of sources – and some turbine types seem more prone to fire than others. A total of 185 fire incidents were found:

By year:

 

Year

70s

80s

90s

00

01

02

03

04

05

06

07

08

09

10

11

12*

No.

6

3

2

24

17

15

14

12

21

17

17

13

20

4

 

* To 31 March 2012 only

The biggest problem with turbine fires is that, because of the turbine height, the fire brigade can do little but watch it burn itself out. While this may be acceptable in reasonably still conditions, in a storm it means burning debris being scattered over a wide area, with obvious consequences. In dry weather there is obviously a wider-area fire risk, especially for those constructed in or close to forest areas and/or close to housing or work places. Two fire accidents have badly burned wind industry workers.

 

Structural failure

From the data obtained, this is the third most common accident cause, with 128 instances found. “Structural failure” is assumed to be major component failure under conditions which components should be designed to withstand. This mainly concerns storm damage to turbines and tower collapse. However, poor quality control, lack of maintenance and component failure can also be responsible.

By year:

 

Year

70s

80s

90s

00

01

02

03

04

05

06

07

08

09

10

11

12*

No.

1

14

9

3

9

7

4

7

9

13

9

16

9

11

7

 

* To 31 March 2012 only

While structural failure is far more damaging (and more expensive) than blade failure, the accident consequences and risks to human health are most likely lower, as risks are confined to within a relatively short distance from the turbine. However, as smaller turbines are now being placed on and around buildings including schools, the accident frequency is expected to rise.

 

Ice throw

34 incidences of ice throw were found. Some are multiple incidents. These are listed here unless they have caused human injury, in which case they are included under “human injury” above.

By year:

 

Year

70s

80s

90s

00

01

02

03

04

05

06

07

08

09

10

11

12*

No.

9

2

2

4

4

3

3

4

1

1

1

 

* To 31 March 2012 only

Ice throw has been reported to 140m. Some Canadian turbine sites have warning signs posted asking people to stay at least 305m from turbines during icy conditions.

These are indeed only a very small fraction of actual incidences – a report* published in 2003 reported 880 icing events between 1990 and 2003 in Germany alone. 33% of these were in the lowlands and on the coastline.
*(“A Statistical Evaluation of Icing Failures in Germany’s ‘250 MW Wind’ Programme – Update 2003”, M Durstwitz, BOREAS VI 9-11 April 2003 Pyhätunturi, Finland.)

Additionally one report listed for 2005 includes 94 separate incidences of ice throw and two reports from 2006 include a further 27 such incidences.

 

Transport

There have been 94 reported accidents – including a 45m turbine section ramming through a house while being transported, a transporter knocking a utility pole through a restaurant, and a turbine section falling off in a tunnel. Transport fatalities and human injuries are included separately. Most accidents involve turbine sections falling from transporters, though turbine sections have also been lost at sea, along with a £50M barge.

By year:

 

Year

70s

80s

90s

00

01

02

03

04

05

06

07

08

09

10

11

12*

No.

4

3

6

6

19

10

11

11

23

1

 

* To 31 March 2012 only

 

Environmental damage (including bird deaths)

108 cases of environmental damage have been reported – the majority since 2007. This is perhaps due to a change in legislation or new reporting requirement. All involved damage to the site itself, or reported damage to or death of wildlife. 44 instances reported here include confirmed deaths of protected species of bird. Deaths, however, are known to be far higher. At the Altamont Pass windfarm alone, 2400 protected golden eagles have been killed in 20 years, and about 10,000 protected raptors (Dr Smallwood, 2004). In Germany, 32 protected white tailed eagles were found dead, killed by wind turbines (Brandenburg State records). In Australia, 22 critically endangered Tasmanian eagles were killed by a single windfarm (Woolnorth). Further detailed information can be found at: www.iberica2000.org/Es/Articulo.asp?Id=3071 and at: www.iberica2000.org/Es/Articulo.asp?Id=1875.

By year:

 

Year

70s

80s

90s

00

01

02

03

04

05

06

07

08

09

10

11

12*

No.

1

1

1

8

1

6

5

10

21

13

19

17

5

 

* To 31 March 2012 only

 

Other (Miscellaneous)

234 miscellaneous accidents are also present in the data. Component failure has been reported here if there has been no consequential structural damage. Also included are lack of maintenance, electrical failure (not led to fire or electrocution) and planning “accidents” where towers have been installed closer than permitted to housing, etc. Construction and construction support accidents are also included, also lightning strikes when a strike has not resulted in blade damage or fire. A separate 1996 report** quotes 393 reports of lightning strikes from 1992 to 1995 in Germany alone, 124 of those direct to the turbine, the rest are to electrical distribution network.
**(Data from WMEP database: taken from report “External Conditions for Wind Turbine Operation – Results from the German ‘250 MW Wind’ Programme”, M Durstewitz, et al, European Union Wind Energy Conference, Goeteborg, May 20-24, 1996)
From 2012, human impact will also be included under miscellaneous – for example, reports of shadow flicker, noise investigations and breaches, etc.

By year:

 

Year

70s

80s

90s

00

01

02

03

04

05

06

07

08

09

10

11

12*

No.

13

7

4

12

13

11

12

16

18

24

27

25

43

9

 

* To 31 March 2012 only

 

 

Caithness Windfarm Information Forum
31 March 2012

http://www.caithnesswindfarms.co.uk/

 

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