How much are wind farms useful to manage wildfires?

  • Thread starter Z0dCHiY8
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The very idea is, to use wind turbines as guardian lines to slow Wildfires.

1. Power of Wind gets reduced (for needful direction) by such guardian lines.
2. Wildfire provides additional electricity.
3. those towers can be geared to spray retardants.
4. prescribed burns becomes more efficient & safe as well.
 

berkeman

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Welcome to the PF. :smile:

Fire breaks are expensive enough to cut. Trying to build windmills in the fire breaks will be much more expensive, obviously. Portable windmills might be a possibility, but there are probably other better approaches to fighting the active wildfires (large air drops, etc.).

Your heart is in the right place, IMO. What reading have you been doing about fighting wildfires? Have you considered joining your local wildland firefighting group to get practical experience?

We have other firefighters/EMS folks here... Paging @anorlunda

EDIT/ADD -- Adding link to a typical wildland firefighting strategy guide... :smile:

 
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@berkeman first of the all thanks for warm welcome :)
Fire breaks are expensive enough to cut. Trying to build windmills in the fire breaks will be much more expensive, obviously. Portable windmills might be a possibility, but there are probably other better approaches to fighting the active wildfires (large air drops, etc.).
the very point is, to integrate wind farms in Forests as stationary objects. So, they will contribute to manage prescribed burns w/ minor risks to explode in Wildfires.
What reading have you been doing about fighting wildfires? Have you considered joining your local wildland firefighting group to get practical experience?
i've lived in the places of Russia, where Wildfires ain't serious trouble. But this topic is curious to me.
 

berkeman

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the very point is, to integrate wind farms in Forests as stationary objects.
What fundamental engineering problem can you see with building windfarms in forests? :smile:

EDIT / ADD -- I meant with "having" not "building"...
 
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In fact, Wildfires are the part of the natural cycle for Forests. But we need to adapt cities/towns/etc to that part.
 

berkeman

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Do you consider the destruction of hundreds of homes per year to be a natural cycle?
 
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Do you consider the destruction of hundreds of homes per year to be a natural cycle?
Wildfires had been roaring long before those homes were built. And now the very goal is, to defend those homes from any harm of that natural cycles.
 

OCR

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Yes, there are. . .
unfortunately, it's very inefficient methods..

1. aerial attack on Wildfire has severely restricted by volume of retardants, by weather conditions & by landscape as well.
2. boots on the ground act very slowly, crew gets emotionally exhausted, gets a lot of troubles w/ health & put selves at great risk.
 

berkeman

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unfortunately, it's very inefficient methods..

1. aerial attack on Wildfire has severely restricted by volume of retardants, by weather conditions & by landscape as well.
2. boots on the ground act very slowly, crew gets emotionally exhausted, gets a lot of troubles w/ health & put selves at great risk.
And how many seasons have you been part of your local wildland firefighting crew? Have you completed the Fire Academy yet? 😉
 

berkeman

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Lol. . . yeah, that is me in the dozer. . :oldbiggrin:
Awesome! Thanks for your very important work, and stay safe brother! :cool:
 
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And how many seasons have you been part of your local wildland firefighting crew? Have you completed the Fire Academy yet? 😉
Please, let's stay on topic.
 
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Economically or investment wise - these are at two ends of the spectrum. One is a long term infrastructure investment expecting pay off in 10s of years - the other is "insurance" costs needed to ensure resources are standing by the ready for a critical conditions, one ideally generates revenue, and the other protects against loss.

While I would point out that the effort to get "added value" out of ether case (all systems) is a worthwhile study - the cost, in this case of preparing windmills and and the necessary systems to be hardened for and combat fires does not seem like it would be economical. ( Conversely - adding automated IR fire detecting systems to accelerate the response time to fight the fires could be added to windmills and could be very valuable if applied properly - relatively low cost, and high benefit. A relatively quick data study of the number of fires started in areas near wind farms could quickly bear this out - just a thought.)
 
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@Windadct Thanks for valuable reply. Actually, in my humble opinion, windmills against Wildfires have two strong pros..

1. it can have retardants on-board, so it can be sprayed around to cool hot ash/embers before that stuff touches dry grass. In other words, spraying can be controlled in online mode w/o any need to have extra crews on the ground.

2. Energy of fires provides additional electricity.
 

cjl

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What fundamental engineering problem can you see with building windfarms in forests? :smile:

EDIT / ADD -- I meant with "having" not "building"...
Although I agree that this isn't a very plausible fire prevention or control method, I suspect you are severely underestimating the size of modern wind turbines with this response.
 
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@Windadct Thanks for valuable reply. Actually, in my humble opinion, windmills against Wildfires have two strong pros..

1. it can have retardants on-board, so it can be sprayed around to cool hot ash/embers before that stuff touches dry grass. In other words, spraying can be controlled in online mode w/o any need to have extra crews on the ground.

2. Energy of fires provides additional electricity.
Again - this is a looks good perhaps in isolation from the real world - but the practicality of it is not there:

1) The cost of putting and maintaining any sufficient retardants (even water) and appropriate application systems in the windmills would be astronomical - and spread over thousands of turbines.
2) Even with fires occurring on an area once every 5 or 10 years - the hardening of the system to survive it is incredibly complex - relative to the benefit. For example - windspeeds during a fire can get well over 50-55 MPH - which is the typical limit for wind turbines, to design the turbines to be able to harvest energy at the higher wind speeds would be also very expensive, and that expense only yields a pay back when the fires occur.


The land could be managed and harvested to suppress natural fires - then burned in a wood to steam process or as a heat source (pelletized) far more economically.

A good example of why Engineering curriculum usually have "Engineering Economics" as a requirement.
 

berkeman

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2. Wildfire provides additional electricity.
Please keep in mind that the current trend is to cut power to areas that are in danger of catching fire (to help prevent AC Mains sparked fires from starting), and during a fire, power is usually cut off anyway.


 

anorlunda

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Count me as skeptical about this idea.

@Z0dCHiY8 , do a simple experiment. Go to one of those wind farms. Carry a hand-held wind meter. See how much difference in wind speed you will find upwind compared to downwind. I'll wager the difference will be too little to measure.

Other points:
  • In a forest with 100 foot trees, the wind turbine towers would need to be 100 feet taller than otherwise. That's a lot of cost.
  • Wind farm owners typically have to buy the land or buy an easement for their locations. They would love the idea of free public land. Land preservation advocates would really hate the idea of giving away public land for private profit.
  • If a tank of retardant at the top of the tower could be effective and affordable, I think they would already do that to protect their own self interest.
  • The ability to make extra electricity for 1 hour out of the life of the turbine is equivalent to your mortgage holder saying that they will give you one hour reduced interest over the life of the loan.
 
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1) The cost of putting and maintaining any sufficient retardants (even water) and appropriate application systems in the windmills would be astronomical - and spread over thousands of turbines.
2) Even with fires occurring on an area once every 5 or 10 years - the hardening of the system to survive it is incredibly complex - relative to the benefit. For example - windspeeds during a fire can get well over 50-55 MPH - which is the typical limit for wind turbines, to design the turbines to be able to harvest energy at the higher wind speeds would be also very expensive, and that expense only yields a pay back when the fires occur.
You, right == it's expensive story, but modern trends of Wildfires have put people at two choices..

1. abandon territories.
2. Stand your ground.
=====
Please keep in mind that the current trend is to cut power to areas that are in danger of catching fire (to help prevent AC Mains sparked fires from starting), and during a fire, power is usually cut off anyway.
good point, but this problem has solution == power cables get deployed underground.
, do a simple experiment. Go to one of those wind farms. Carry a hand-held wind meter. See how much difference in wind speed you will find upwind compared to downwind. I'll wager the difference will be too little to measure.
at Forest fires, we deal w/ bunch of local winds. They ain't stable by their power & direction. The very goal is to pound the "bad" directions, so it makes fire expansion more slow.
In a forest with 100 foot trees, the wind turbine towers would need to be 100 feet taller than otherwise. That's a lot of cost.
here is curious moment == we have to deal w/ ground winds at range (0-5 meters from the ground). Ground winds have provide the Lion's share of Wildfire speed. at high altitudes, ash/embers lose the most of its temp & have lowest probability to spark new fires.
Wind farm owners typically have to buy the land or buy an easement for their locations. They would love the idea of free public land. Land preservation advocates would really hate the idea of giving away public land for private profit.
i'm not a lawyer to discuss this issue. But i guess it has a lot of solutions :)
If a tank of retardant at the top of the tower could be effective and affordable, I think they would already do that to protect their own self interest.
if one home survives, but entire neighborhood got burnt down to the ground.. it's pointless. + keep in mind, Megafires have provided mudslides.
“When I interviewed the Montecito firefighters they were forthright that they were dealing with trauma, especially from the mudslides that followed the fire. It wasn't something they could prepare for.” That’s a key word: preparation.
The ability to make extra electricity for 1 hour out of the life of the turbine is equivalent to your mortgage holder saying that they will give you one hour reduced interest over the life of the loan.
lawmaker's issue yet again.
 

berkeman

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unfortunately, it's very inefficient methods..
And you base this statement on what? You did your best to dodge my question about your training in Fire Science...
And how many seasons have you been part of your local wildland firefighting crew? Have you completed the Fire Academy yet? 😉
Please, let's stay on topic.
We are replying on-topic. You would like to propose a new technique of preparing for wildland fires, and as I said before, that is admirable and your heart is in the right place. Unfortunately, you keep showing that you have no experience or training in Fire Science, Wildland Firefighting, Infrastructure Economics, etc. If you had an unbelievably fantastic new idea, we would say so. But your thought experiment has many flaws that we've been trying to gently point out, and so far you have been rejecting them and trying to keep promoting the flawed concept.
You, right == it's expensive story, but modern trends of Wildfires have put people at two choices..

1. abandon territories.
2. Stand your ground.
Nope. If you had graduated from a Fire Academy or had a background in Fire Science, you would understand how the infrastructure that we use now is the best that we have. And you would be familiar with the next couple of possible technologies that we are working on...

You have received good replies from folks in this thread with experience in Fire Science, EMS and Firefighting (including Wildland Firefighting). I would suggest that the best thing you could do right now is to channel your great enthusiasm and passion into learning more about Fire Science and Wildland Firefighting and keep up with your studies in ME/CE or whatever your school passions are. You may very well come up with some great new firefighting technologies, but tilting at these windmills is a waste of time IMO.

Please stop by your local firehouse to say hi, and ask about the local junior FF volunteer groups and the local Fire Academy. You will find some like minds at your local firehouse...
:smile:
 
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And you base this statement on what? You did your best to dodge my question about your training in Fire Science...
Wildfire's trends are open info & i've used it.
We are replying on-topic. You would like to propose a new technique of preparing for wildland fires, and as I said before, that is admirable and your heart is in the right place. Unfortunately, you keep showing that you have no experience or training in Fire Science, Wildland Firefighting, Infrastructure Economics, etc. If you had an unbelievably fantastic new idea, we would say so. But your thought experiment had many flaws that we've been trying to gently point out, and so far you have been rejecting them and trying to keep promoting the flawed concept.
actually, we have discussed possible technological solutions. Obviously, current windmills ain't suitable for topic. as i said, we need to deal w/ ground gusty winds to manage those fires.
 
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curious design, looks to be more suitable for topic :)
 

DEvens

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Do you consider the destruction of hundreds of homes per year to be a natural cycle?
It's the only way the homecones can open out and release their seeds. 🤪
 

cjl

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Count me as skeptical about this idea.

@Z0dCHiY8 , do a simple experiment. Go to one of those wind farms. Carry a hand-held wind meter. See how much difference in wind speed you will find upwind compared to downwind. I'll wager the difference will be too little to measure.
I honestly couldn't tell you what the wake does at ground level. 100m up though, turbines severely reduce windspeed for distances up to a kilometer or two behind the turbine. This is especially true if the wind speed is around 11-12m/s or lower, where the turbine is operating near its maximum thrust coefficient.

Other points:
  • In a forest with 100 foot trees, the wind turbine towers would need to be 100 feet taller than otherwise. That's a lot of cost.
An extra 30m of tower height honestly isn't as much of a deal as you're thinking here. Sure, it adds, cost, but it's absolutely something that is done sometimes. It all depends on the local mean windspeed, the costs, the goals for the power generation, etc. It can even be a good thing in areas with strict noise regulations - the extra tower height plus the trees can help significantly reduce the noise level produced by the turbine compared to a similar one mounted 30 or 40 meters lower in an empty plain.

Also, in general, I think you're underestimating just how large these are. Especially in a forest with shorter trees (say, 10 or 20 meters), the turbine's overall height is barely even affected. Modern turbines use towers in the 60-70 meter range at the lowest, and at the high end, towers as high as 140-180m or so have been done. The trees just really don't provide much impediment when the turbines are that tall.

1567709944202.png


As for the rest of your points here though:
  • Wind farm owners typically have to buy the land or buy an easement for their locations. They would love the idea of free public land. Land preservation advocates would really hate the idea of giving away public land for private profit.
  • If a tank of retardant at the top of the tower could be effective and affordable, I think they would already do that to protect their own self interest.
  • The ability to make extra electricity for 1 hour out of the life of the turbine is equivalent to your mortgage holder saying that they will give you one hour reduced interest over the life of the loan.
I pretty much agree with everything here. It's not really a viable idea, just not for your initial couple of reasons.
 

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