May 13, 2013

Maine turbine fire probe to be done within month

The Jan. 16 blaze, the first wind turbine fire in Maine, burned out a gear box at the Kibby Wind farm.

The Associated Press

PORTLAND — 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.

click image to enlarge

In this May, 2010 photo, wind turbines tower over the landscape at the Steston wind farm in Danforth.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

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.

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.

 

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