A winter storm caused wind turbines to freeze over in Texas, which limited the state’s power generation capacity during record-breaking power demand. (Image Credit: Vincent Foret/Unsplash)

 

Nearly half of Texas’ wind power generation capacity has been cut off due to a winter storm that slammed the state over the weekend, leaving 3 million people without power. Usually, Texas wind farms generate 25,100 megawatts of power. According to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), wind turbines had frozen over, which accounted for 12,000 megawatts of energy. They also stated that unfrozen turbines are generating energy much faster, helping to offset the losses.

 

In 2020, wind turbines accounted for nearly 25% of Texas’ energy, making it the next biggest power source after natural gas. Turbines can be fitted with anti-freeze technology so they can operate in cold weather. However, it’s expensive to install the modifications, and they’re rarely developed in areas where they might not be needed. Can we expect this to be an issue anywhere turbines are used from now on? Seems so.

 

The frozen turbines were part of a perfect storm of energy sources limiting Texas’ power generation capacity during record-breaking electric demand as a result of freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall. Natural gas being the #1 problem. Temperatures dipped into the single-digits in areas as far as San Antonio. It’s not known when power could return, as rolling blackouts were ordered in the state on Monday.  The rotating blackouts, which are spreading from Texas across the Great Plains, are expected to continue until Texas’ weather emergency ends.

 

The wind is not entirely at fault for the outages. Around 27 gigawatts of coal, nuclear, and gas capacity are unavailable. This is because the cold has caused more demand for natural gas, which provides heating.

 

Wind turbines are less efficient when they freeze due to cold temperatures, and their blades stop spinning.  However, it could be hazardous if ice forms on the blades since it could break off or fall to the ground.   

 

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