The photo on the right shows lightning striking a wind turbine in Mid-North South Australia, the leading Australian wind-power region.
As a member of the Waterloo Wind Farm Community Liaison Committee (also Mid-North SA) I have been informed that there have been a number of lightning strikes on this moderately-sized seven-year-old wind farm. The great majority of the approximately 340 wind turbines in the region, including Waterloo and Hallett, are on ridge-tops.
Mid-North SA suffers from frequent bushfires, many of them caused by lightning-strike.
As of the time of writing there have been three wind turbine fires in Australia; none of these were started by lightning. It seems that the built-in protection from lightning-strike given to wind turbines stops them catching fire as a result of those lighting-strikes.
So, it is logical that wind turbines would give some protection to a ridge from lightning-started bush fires, but it does not seem that anyone has seriously researched the degree of this protection. Mid-North SA seems an ideal region for such reasearch.
How would the research be carried out?Following the literature review:
Who might fund the research?Considering the great cost of bushfires to the community, insurance industry and, ultimately to government, I would think that the latter two might be willing to fund the research. The Emergency Fire Service organisation should be willing to support the research, but would probably lack the financial resources to fund it.
Wind farm operators may be willing to help fund the research because it would potentially improve the image of wind farms. Opponents of wind farms have falsely claimed that wind farms make fire-fighting more difficult because, they claim, water-bombing aircraft cannot fly near turbines. This has been denied by the EFS and was shown to be false when water-bombing aircraft flew near and between turbines at Waterloo Wind Farm in January 2017. Wind farm operators would be very please to be able to show that the presence of wind farms actually protected local people from fires to some degree.
Where could the research be done?As mentioned above, the numerous lightning-strike fires and wind turbines along ridges in Mid-North South Australia would make it an ideal place for the research.