Wind energy played an important role in keeping the lights on and homes warm during Polar Vortex week.
In some cases, it made all the difference - without wind energy being available, the power would have gone out as frigid temperatures severely strained the grid.
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) reports:
- As natural gas prices surged because of demand in Nebraska, the utility turned to 300 megawatts of wind to provide 13% of demand and keep prices down. It shut down natural gas flow because prices were up more than 300%.
- In Texas, utilities struggled with numerous outages at conventional power plants, but wind farms filled in with 2 gigawatts (GW) of energy.
- In the Mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes states the grid operator (which serves 60 million people) was able to turn to 3 GW of wind output when numerous fossil fuel plants and two nuclear plants unexpectedly failed. A whopping 20% of capacity was down because of problems with natural gas supply and weather-related mechanical failures, according to Reuters.
- High natural gas prices across New England were also reduced by high output from the region's wind farms.
This serves as a powerful reminder that wind energy plays a critical role in diversifying our energy mix, improving energy reliability and reducing energy costs for homes and businesses," says Michael Goggin, Senior Electric Industry Analyst of AWEA.
"Diversity inherently makes the power system more reliable by protecting against the unexpected failures that afflict all energy sources from time to time. While wind energy output does change with the wind speed, such changes occur far more slowly than the unexpected outages that frequently occur at large conventional power plants. Moreover, changes in wind energy output are predictable using weather forecasting, while conventional power plant failures are not, making them far more difficult and costly for grid operators to accommodate."
It's interesting that while critics constantly point out the limitations of intermittent solar and wind, they forget the many unpredictable power outages associated with conventional energy sources.