Proceedings of the

The 33rd European Safety and Reliability Conference (ESREL 2023)
3 – 8 September 2023, Southampton, UK

Comparative Risk Assessment of Wind Turbine Accidents from a Societal Perspective

Peter Burgherr1,a, Eleftherios Siskos1,b, Russell McKenna1,c, Matteo Spada2 and Rebecca Lordan-Perret3

1Laboratory for Energy Systems Analysis, Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), Villigen PSI, Switzerland.

2Institute of Sustainable Development, Zurich University of Applied Sciences, Winterthur, Switzerland.

3Energy Economics, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland.


Wind power plays a pivotal role in decarbonizing the world's electricity mix, and the current annual installed capacity growth is expected to continue, supported by ambitious targets, policies and cost reductions. However, wind power faces several social acceptance challenges that affect peoples' perception and can lead to opposition and protests. The main concerns are aesthetic impact, environmental effects on wildlife and biodiversity and health hazards. Risks and consequences due to accidents often lack an adequate analysis and discussion. Therefore, the aim of this study is a comparative risk assessment of onshore and offshore wind power accidents at a global level, under a societal perspective. First, a comprehensive data set is compiled that exclusively relies on open-source and publicly available information. The final data set comprises 2708 accidents for the period 2000-2022. Second, descriptive statistics and visualizations are used to identify temporal and geographic trends, and to relate accidents to different attributes (e.g., accident types). Third, selected indicators for fatality risk are calculated to compare different country groups and onshore vs. offshore activities. In summary, this study provides useful insights and a better understanding of accident risks with a focus on health impacts, thus complementing the industry's focus on occupational risk. Ultimately, it can help to smoothen controversies and achieve compromises in such complex decision-making processes.

Keywords: Wind power, Risk assessment, Energy-related severe accident database, Acceptance.

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