Any speculation on what would cause a wind turbine to catch on fire?

Wind turbine burns in Iowa after being destroyed by tornado

I can only think of two things:

  1. Oversped in the high wind (which they’re not supposed to do).
  2. Something shorted out in the feed to the grid after it fell down. Which I would think should also be protected from happening.
  1. Pieces of metal striking sparks while colliding
  2. Lightning/electrical effects from all the friction of things colliding/grinding against each other.

Fuel tank supplying the engine that turns the blades ruptured and ignited

<windmillsdonotworkthatway.jpg> :slight_smile:

  1. Arson

Overspeed seems most likely to me. Yes, they have protection systems to prevent damage from an overspeed condition, but in strong winds those protections sometimes fail. There are lots of Youtube videos of wind turbines being damaged by an overspeed condition.

  1. Transformer failure
  2. Generator failure
  3. Lubrication failure (either mechanical failure causing lubricant to leak or poor maintenance)
  4. Braking system borked itself
  5. Someone made an oopsie while welding during maintenance
  6. Mechanical part decided to spontaneously disassemble itself

I was going to speculate that the fuel for the fire was the lubricant. And I may have been right, according to this (9 year old) article.

For example, a 1.5 MW wind turbine can typically contain 900 liters of lubricating and cooling oil

Any one of these, independently or together, could cause the generator to catch fire. In additional, I’ll note that the composite blades and the (probably fiberglass composite) nacelle are quite capable of sustaining fire once you get up to the autoignition temperature of the resin, so a lubrication fire could turn into a deflagration that could essentially consume the entire structure.


Global warming?

Bird strike (if the bird is smoking a cigarette).

Highly doubtful, by law the picket lines must be 50’ away.

To be fair, in tornadoes, lots of things sometimes fail.


Not up to the rotation speed. Inadequate lubrication. Will get hot very fast.

How do the speed limiting systems work? Change the pitch of the blades? It can’t be a friction brake, right? It seems to me they would overheat.

“Friction brake” sounds like something that would slow it down. Rather, when the wind is too strong, they usually stop entirely. Bringing the system to a stop will generate heat, but holding it stopped won’t.