There is no doubt that these clean energy plants work as genuine firewalls that help prevent the spread of fires. In Spain there are numerous examples, such as the fire in Pucheruelo (Ávila) where the wind farm prevented the flames from reaching the neighbouring town of San Juan, and the fires in Barbanza, Corzán (A Coruña) and Couto de San Sebastián (Pontevedra) and most recently the evacuation line in the Coriscada wind farm, on the border between the provinces of A Coruña and Lugo, where a fire was prevented from reaching a rural nucleus because its advance was slowed by a street along the border which was completely clean.
The roadways, wind turbine platforms and power lines to transport electricity from wind farms act as effective firewalls. Here they need to undertake clearing, felling and pruning campaigns to comply with forest fire prevention laws.
In those sites which are surrounded by forest mass, perimeter belts of native leafy plants are planted that slow the advance of forest fires, protecting the installations and providing all the benefits associated with these species, as well as favouring landscape integration.
According to Juan Virgilio Márquez, General Manager of the Wind Energy Business Association (AEE in Spanish), "where there is a wind farm, the surface is kept clear, making coexistence easier with other uses such as agriculture and livestock and the pathways are the best firewall to prevent fires in the area."
The presence of workers in the wind farms is also a guarantee that if a fire is discovered the alarm will be raised, functioning as an active aid and alert system in the prevention of fires.
Fire prevention measures in the electricity grid
There are other installations that are a key factor in wildfire prevention: The power lines. The forest mass that grows around the power lines is cleaned and cared for and there is thorough inspection of the entire installation to avoid possible incidents.
Our subsidiary for electrical networks, edistribución, manages lines in Catalonia, Andalusia, the Canary Islands, the Balearic Islands, Aragón and Badajoz that consist of almost 318,000 kilometres, the equivalent of circling the Earth eight times. That is why the network is constantly and regularly subjected to monitoring and maintenance:
- The selective felling and pruning of the forest mass enables the creation of corridors that function as natural firebreaks.
- Thermographic inspections undertaken from helicopters and at the foot of the line with an infrared camera enable control of the cables and the detection of any points where there may be a risk of overheating.
- Drones are also used to verify the width of the corridors and safety pathways below and at the side of the line that act as firewalls.