Why Wind Turbines Thrive in Antarctica and Are Much Colder Than Texas?

At the main research station in Antarctica, annual temperatures average zero degrees Fahrenheit but often drop much lower

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Near McMurdo Station in the U.S., some wind turbines can provide enough power to power 100 American homes and avoid burning more than 120,000 gallons of diesel fuel each year, analyzed by Mashable.

, which is no surprise. Wind turbines, cleverly constructed from airplane wings, provide reliable, ever-cheaper energy that does not emit deadly air pollution and greenhouse gases that warm the planet into the atmosphere. Such tall turbines were far from responsible for the catastrophic energy collapse in Texas after the arctic air hit the region (largely a gas-fired breakdown, infrastructure failure, and a disease-equipped vulnerable grid). Nonetheless, grossly irresponsible reporting inaccurately accused a “MASSIVE GREEN ENERGY FAULT”, particularly the 13,000+ wind turbines in Texas lines, for the historic collapse.

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The reality of wind turbines, however, is that they operate regularly in icy conditions and can be weathered to winter extremes. That’s why they work in places like Sweden, Antarctica, and Iowa (over 40 percent of Iowa’s electricity comes from wind). Sometimes some turbines (especially those that aren’t weathered like many in Texas) are temporarily shut down in excessively freezing conditions, with other sources of energy, be it nuclear, solar, gas, or hydropower being designed to break the slack.

Y like solar, nuclear, and hydropower, wind power is a major contributor to a larger energy system, a system that is gradually becoming more efficient, more reliable, and cleaner. Sure, some turbines today are not heated and the wind is not. “That’s normal. We’ve thought of solar and wind power as part of our overall electricity supply,” said Grant Goodrich, executive director of the Great Lakes Energy Institute. at Case Western Reserve University, which operates and researches wind turbines.

Working in the cold

Wind power will continue to expand in the U.S. This is because U. Money talks and prices for wind turbines have plummeted. they come with the cost and risk of transporting fossil fuels through hundreds of miles of pipelines, and the realistic potential for massive leaks and shadowy explosions.

“The economy is there,” emphasized Gavin Dillingham, Energy Director of the Research Center. Houston Advanced, an energy research organization in Texas. Solar and wind power are often cheaper than natural gas, added Dillingham, who is also director of the U.Department of Energy’s Southcentral and Upper West Combined Heat and Power Technical Assistance Association, which works to improve the region’s energy efficiency and resilience.

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for extreme weather conditions, the engineering is there, and it’s getting better too. To operate in cold locations like Canada, heating can be applied to some essential turbine components, such as the engine and gears.

“Cold climate heated wind turbines are not rocket science,” explained Vijay Modi, professor of mechanical engineering. at the Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. However, cooling the turbines adds costs, perhaps less than 10 percent of the price of a new turbine, he said. And during freezing events, some of the wind energy is diverted to heat the turbines.

“The turbine’s electricity production is slightly reduced when elements are heated that prevent Ent” active freezing, “Modi said.” But this is it. a very small reduction in turbine output, considering otherwise you run the risk of not having any output. ”However, a current area of ​​turbine innovation is not how to just deal with the cold, but what to do with ice (which is caused by wet and icy weather conditions). “Temperature is really not the important factor in operating the turbine,” Goodrich said. “The problem is the icing on the blades.” A large amount of ice accumulated on blades can make them too heavy to rotate productively or safely.

The development of ice-resistant coatings for large turbine blades is an important and ongoing research area, explained Hui Hu, director of Aircraft Glaze Physics and Anti-de-icing Technology Laboratory at Iowa State University. Coatings – made with chemicals meant to repel water droplets – are ideal because they don’t require energy to heat the blades, Hu said. However, heating the blades could be a viable option. In Sweden, the energy company Skellefteå Kraft has started to heat a carbon fiber layer on the blades and circulate hot air inside the blades.

Of course, wind turbines are not the only energy infrastructure that should be weathered for the potential of extreme temperatures. After winter extremes that led to major outages in Texas and New Mexico in 2011, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recommended building the electrical infrastructure in Texas – including gas plants, gas pipelines, wind turbines, and transmission lines – winterized, e.g. B. by insulating pipes. This did not happen. As a result, cold weather (which Texas knew was coming) crashed only large chunks of the grid, and death ensued.

“All infrastructure was included because the state did not take appropriate steps to weather its infrastructure,” said Dillingham, of the Houston Advanced Research Center, and found that gas shutdowns were the biggest contributing factor in Texas power outages.

For the next decade and beyond, wind power will be boosted by the ability to store excess energy in batteries. This will allow for more reliable renewal of energy, for example when some turbines might be less productive. “We need to build [wind farms] with storage in mind,” Goodrich said. According to U., the cost of battery storage fell by almost 70 percent between 2015 and 2018. Energy Information Administration.

As wind energy increases across the country, Modi emphasizes that it is advisable to weather more wind turbines. The wind is free and our ability to expertly harness energy from air currents impresses even mechanical engineers.

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“The modern wind turbine of the 21st century is an ingenious technology,” said Modi.

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