As scientists warn that the increase in extreme weather events shows no signs of stopping, experts say it’s important as ever to prepare renewable sources for the conditions. This is of utmost concern due to the number of wind generation stations in Winnebago, Worth, and Kossuth Counties.
Iowa gets more than 40% of its power from wind energy, and for the most part, wind turbines can be weatherized to operate in winter weather conditions.
Tad Miller, regional director of field operations for energy company EDF Renewables, said cold-weather packages for wind turbines can range from using thinner oil – like you would do for your car in a cold climate – to putting heaters in the gearboxes or even on the blades.
There are limits, and some of Iowa’s wind turbines were shut down during the 2019 polar vortex, when the area saw record-breaking cold temperatures, reaching negative 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
Miller said manufacturers and operators are always trying to find new ways to make improvements.
Natalie McIntire, a technical consultant with the Clean Grid Alliance, said since the polar-vortex event, Iowa’s regional transmission operator has been working to incorporate data about what the wind turbines and other power sources’ capabilities are – so that weather forecasting can help them plan ahead for managing power during future extreme weather events.
She said if temperatures shut down wind farms in states like Iowa and Minnesota, for example, utilities within the network but unaffected by the weather could contribute resources to help.