Smoke and Mirrors: Wind Turbine Fire Claims Overblown

Guest Blog | September 8, 2014 | Energy Policy, Wind

A recent non-peer reviewed study evaluated the frequency of wind turbine fires around the world. The study found that every year there are approximately 11.7 wind turbine fires that are reported globally. Based on extremely limited data from an anti-wind farm activist group, the study went on to suggest that wind turbine fires could be ten times higher than what is reported, for a potential total of 117 fires globally every year.

But those statistics are not what a London-based newspaper, The Telegraph, highlighted. Instead, that newspaper led with the inflammatory headline: “Wind turbine fires ‘ten times more common than thought’ experts warn.” Such a headline is specifically designed to incite fear, uncertainty and doubt about wind energy. As expected, anti-wind activists are latching onto the headline as a rallying cry to ban all wind turbines. To put things in perspective, here are several fire risks that are much more prevalent than wind turbines:

  • Schools – 4,000 fires,  75 injuries and $66.1 million in property loss – US Fire Administration
  • Halloween – 11,300 fires, 30 deaths, 175 injuries and $96 million in property loss annually – USFA
  • Christmas – 11,600 fires, 250 injuries and 40 fatalities, and $80 million in property loss annually – USFA
  • Lightning – 17,400 fires annually – USFA
  • Vehicles – 194,000 fires, 1,250 injuries, 300 deaths and $1.1 billion in property loss annually – USFA
  • Homes – 236,200 fires, 8,525 injuries, 1,980 deaths and $5.5 billion dollars in property loss annually – US Fire Administration

And those statistics are just for the United States. If The Telegraph (which is notoriously anti-wind energy) were reporting on American house fires with such zeal, their headline would read something like: “American home fires ‘2,000 times more common than wind turbine fires globally’ experts warn.” If anti-wind activists had anything other than a political agenda, their logically consistent message would be: ban homes. All accidental fires cause damage, but suggesting that wind turbines should be banned because of a fire risk is nothing but smoke and mirrors.

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