Extreme Cold ≠ Wind Power

My posting below about the lack of wind power during extreme cold drew several comments, some of which disagreed. Anthony Watts cross-posted it at WattUpWithThat and his commenters were even more vocal in disputing my contention that wind power is unreliable in cold weather. Thanks for the comments, I appreciate them.

Let me illustrate my point about cold weather here in Kansas. Below is a photograph of the Beaumont, KS wind farm, halfway between Wichita and Chanute:

Chanute set a cold weather record this morning of -16°F!

Wichita reached -6°F:


What were the winds? Every weather station in the region was below the minimum 7 mph threshold needed to turn the blades thoughout the night. These were the 8am readings. 
There have been multiple studies in Europe and at least two previous instances (Minnesota and, in 2008, Texas) where wind power failed during extreme cold. 
The fact that wind power is not reliable in extreme cold is indisputable. 

8 thoughts on “Extreme Cold ≠ Wind Power

  1. So when its cold and calm these wind farms are not pumping anything into the grid… but are they making things worse be drawing power from the grid for de-icing????

    The electro-thermal de-icer is used in some sites, such as Canada’s Yukon and Finland’s Pori and Olostrunturi (Laakso et al., 2003). The system can be easily installed on existing blades. The significant energy consumption is its main drawback. In Pori, the system was used for public safety reasons and the power consumption was 1% of annual production
    http://www.isope.org/publications/journals/ijope-17-3/abst-17-3-p182-RF-37-Mayer.pdf

    Regards
    Malaga View

  2. Anthony Watts cross-posted it at WattUpWithThat and his commenters were even more vocal in disputing my contention that wind power is unreliable in cold weather.

    Keep up the good work… these postings seem to have attracted a fair degree of trolling so I guess you are hitting a raw nerve….
    Malaga View

  3. Malaga,

    "So when its cold and calm these wind farms are not pumping anything into the grid… but are they making things worse be drawing power from the grid for de-icing????"

    I don't understand the point. This thread of comments (see two postings below) began when Texas ran out of energy two nights ago and is still suffering (per news reports) this morning. Texas, more than any other state, has invested in wind power and it failed when it was needed the most because there was no wind. I posted the actual wind speeds in northwest Texas in the comments at the other post.

  4. @ Mike Smith
    Thanks for the response… my question is general although it might apply in Texas.

    When its very cold and windless then wind turbines are stationary and do not generate any power for the grid. To cover for these windless periods there needs to be additional tradional back-up capacity on the grid that can be brought on-line quickly. OK so far?

    So now I am thinking about those wind turbines hanging around in the freezing weather… they have a habit of getting iced-up – just like airplanes on the ground.

    Therefore, wind turbines need de-icing… and de-icing usually requires electricity to warm up the blades and mechanism… so we have an additional drain on the grid when the turbines have stopped generating any power.

    Now the paper I referenced above said that de-icing was 1% of annual production… that doesn't sound a lot until you realise that de-icing is not always required.

    Say you need to de-ice for 60 days a year… then that means that 1% overhead for de-icing is used up in one fifth of the year… thus de-icing consumes 5% of the gererating capacity when the turbine is being de-iced.

    So if we 7,000 turbines going off-line because the wind is too weak… then we get a big drop in power for the grid… but if those 7,000 turbines also need de-icing then those turbines consume a lot of power to keep warmed up – the equivalent of 350 turbines in this example.

    Malaga View

  5. wind turbines are at 30-50m, your ASOS sites are at 10m and with fresh ice/snow, static stability would be very high, so don't assume it was calm at turbine height.

  6. Anonymous said:
    "wind turbines are at 30-50m, your ASOS sites are at 10m and with fresh ice/snow, static stability would be very high, so don't assume it was calm at turbine height."
    It may not have been calm at turbine height but I would take the bet that it was no greater than the lower threshold needed to produce power.

    I agree with our host that this is a fundamental flaw to wind energy as a "solution". The peak electric demand days are associated with large high pressure systems in both winter and summer and those are periods of low wind. As a result wind capacity has to be backed up by fossil plants.

    There is an inconvenient problem with this backup fossil power. Because there is tremendous pressure to decommission the old, grandfathered with high emission limits, inefficient, dirty fossil plants that means that new fossil plants will have to be built. I don’t think that it will be possible to build new simple cycle gas turbine plants because that cannot meet the extremely pollutant low levels required for new facilities. The likely alternative is combined cycle gas turbines are not as efficient or flexible so won’t work as well in the backup role likely for a high wind energy scenario.

    Furthermore, if the “solution” is to use wind energy for replacement not only do we have to pay for the wind power development but we still have to build new fossil capacity to back up the variable capacity of wind. In the de-regulated world building a fossil plant in that environment sets the playing field such that a developer will get reduced energy payments whenever the wind is blowing and his plant will cycle to back up the wind which will beat the crap out of the equipment. Guess what – you are going to have to subsidize him to build the backup fossil plant. It seems to me that means the rate payer would pay for wind capacity, for fossil-backup capacity and for energy payments to make the fossil plant economic to build. Or forget about wind energy and you build modern fossil capacity with the expectation that the energy payments will make it economic enough without subsidies for lost energy sales.