Frozen Wind Turbines

Helicopter Attempts to De-Ice Wind Turbine Blades

Massive wind turbines have blades carefully shaped to cause them to spin as the Earth’s winds stream across them. This rotational motion turns an AC generator which sends, on average, 1.67 megawatts to your house. If the blades ice up in freezing temperatures, they stop working. They slow to a stop.

Off-shore wind turbines and those operating in northern climates are fitted with heating elements that melt off the ice before it can retard performance. Such modifications are costly but necessary.

Texas, currently suffering from massive electric power outages, gets about 7% of its power from wind turbines. The power grid in Texas is operated by Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). ERCOT foolishly decided to install wind turbines without the heating elements, because “Hey, it’ll never get that cold down here!”

Well, Karma’s a bitch and this week, it came to Texas, the state most responsible for America’s contribution to global warming. Texas’s unchecked production and distribution of petroleum and natural gas has created the extreme weather events we are experiencing, and this week it came to bite them in their collective asses.

Now, to be fair to the wind energy business, 93% of Texas’s electric power comes from natural gas fired turbines. Texas is unique in that they don’t store their natural gas. They pump it directly from the gas field to the power plants. Just like the wind turbines, Texas’s natural gas pumping equipment wasn’t designed to operate in extreme freezing temperatures. These natural gas wells froze up, and the power plants went offline. This week, Texans had to endure rolling blackouts, deep freezing cities and towns for days at a time.

The Shape of Wind Turbine Blades is Crucial to their Performance

So, why would the government of Texas be so foolish, be so unprepared for a cold weather emergency as this? The answer is simple: Republicans.

Republicans have been in control of Texas politics for many decades. The Republican Party caters only to the rich – the billionaire class. Their mantra is low taxes, no regulation, and minimal spending on infrastructure, etc. The billionaires who have bought off the Republican Party operate on this singular financial principle: “What have you done for me this quarter.

That short-sighted view has damaged the United States. The Republican leaders play only the short game, never looking to future needs (what have you done for me this quarter?). That kind of leadership would be prone to buying the wind turbines without the blade heaters, because it enhances the short-term profits, keeps taxes low.

The Republican promise of lower taxes and no regulations sounds seductive. But, when you vote for that, just be prepared to endure more power blackouts. These extreme weather events are going to get worse.

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