Block ip Trap

Frozen Wind Turbines Hamper Texas Power Output

15 Feb 2021

Nearly half of Texas' installed wind power generation capacity has been offline because of frozen wind turbines in West Texas, according to Texas grid operators. 

Wind farms across the state generate up to a combined 25,100 megawatts of energy. But unusually moist winter conditions in West Texas brought on by recent freezing rain and historically low temperatures have iced many of those wind turbines to a halt.

As of February 14th, those iced turbines comprise 12,000 megawatts of Texas' installed wind generation capacity, although those West Texas turbines don't typically spin to their full generation capacity this time of year.

Wind turbine blades rotate July 31, 2017, in a field off Farm-to-Market Road 70 near Chapman Ranch in Nueces County, Texas.

Fortunately for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the state's electric grid, the storm's gusty winds are spinning the state's unfrozen coastal turbines at a higher rate than expected, helping to offset some of the power generation losses because of the icy conditions. 

"This is a unique winter storm that's more widespread with lots of moisture in West Texas, where there's a lot of times not a lot of moisture," said Dan Woodfin, Senior Director of System Operations for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. "It's certainly more than what we would typically assume."

Wind power has been the fastest-growing source of energy in Texas' power grid. In 2015 winder power generation supplied 11% of Texas' energy grid. Last year it supplied 23% and overtook coal as the system's second-largest source of energy after natural gas.

In Austin, wind power supplies roughly 19% of the city's energy demands, all of which is passed from producers to consumers across the state grid. The city began adding several megawatts of wind energy capacity to its renewable energy portfolio in the 1990s from both West Texas and Gulf Coast wind farms.

The frozen turbines come as low temperatures strain the state's power grid and force operators to call for immediate statewide conservation efforts, like unplugging non-essential appliances, turning down residential heaters and minimize use of electric lighting.

Austin-American Statesman | http://www.statesman.com