Turbines and Polar Vortex


PREMO Member
The wind farms erected across the central U.S. over the past decade were supposed to provide cheap power during the blustery winter months. But they were never designed for cold like this.

As a life-threatening freeze brought temperatures that may reach all-time record lows in the Chicago area Thursday morning, heating demand surgedand power suppliers were forced to start up older coal and natural gas facilities that only operate on an as-needed basis. One of the reasons why is that wind-power generation has plummeted.

“It’s just too cold for a lot of wind farms,” Adam Jordan, director of power analytics at Genscape Inc., said in an interview. “They can get damaged in weather like this.”

With a deep freeze like this one, wind-farm operators may have to hit the brakes as ice builds up on blades and to prevent lubricated bearings from seizing up and stiffened fiberglass blades from cracking. The National Weather Service warned that records may topple from the upper Midwest through the Ohio Valley by Thursday, and the Chicago area may see wind chills as low as minus-50 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-46 Celsius).