New Research on Wind Turbine Accidents Reveals Common Causes

According to 2016 statistics released by The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), the cumulative global wind energy capacity will double from 2016 to 2021, reaching 800GW by 2021.

While wind energy industry and the installation of wind turbines are growing, the drawbacks of wind energy are not always considered and evaluated. One particular problem with wind energy is wind turbine accidents. Wind turbine accidents include a multitude of ways in which wind turbines fail due to mechanical problems, nature, or humans.

A new study by a international research team reveals new insights into wind turbine accidents and failures. The study was conducted by Dr. Sobhan (Sean) Asian of La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia, Dr. Gurdal Ertek, Abu Dhabi University, Abu Dhabi, UAE, and researchers from Singapore and Turkey. Researchers have analyzed the wind turbine accidents and failures in the four stages of a wind turbine’s life cycle, namely, transportation, construction, operation, and maintenance, and explored the relation between cause categories and the life cycle stages. Cause categories were identified as human, nature, and system & equipment.

Wind Turbine Life Cycle
Wind Turbine Life Cycle

The research revealed the association between deaths and injuries and various factors. The most important factor predicting the occurrence of death was discovered to be the stage in the wind turbine’s life cycle when the accident/failure took place. Other important factors include country, whether the wind turbine is onshore or offshore, and power of the turbine.

For occurrence of injury,  the most important predicting factor was discovered to be the power of the wind turbine. Other important factors included country, stage of life cycle when the event occurred, and accident year.

According to research results, accidents and failures caused by humans are most common during transportation. In construction and maintenance stages of the wind turbine’s life cycle, human causes are also the most common. System and equipment related accidents, on the other hand, take place in the form of electric system failures, material fatigue, and faulty material.  When accidents occur, the components most likely to be affected are blades and tower.

Dr. Gurdal Ertek, one of the researchers in the research team stated that: “This is the first study in the world where such a big collection of accident news was analyzed and the results were publicly shared. The data for our study is available now online in our research web site, so that other researchers can also download and analyze the data. We are hoping that this will be the first in a series of research we conduct and we are looking forward to contributing to the know-how on wind turbines and facilitating the safer use of this technology.”

Dr. Sobhan (Sean) Asian is Senior Lecturer at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia. Dr. Asian received his Ph.D. from School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. His areas of expertise include supply chain risk management, business analytics, and operations management.

Dr. Gurdal Ertek is an Associate Professor of Management at Abu Dhabi University, Abu Dhabi, UAE. Dr. Ertek received his Ph.D. from School of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, in 2001. His areas of expertise include data science, supply chain and warehouse logistics, and project management.