Wind Energy Rescues Much of US During Polar Vortex

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.

    Wind Farms Texas Smaller

  • 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. 

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Comments on “Wind Energy Rescues Much of US During Polar Vortex”

  1. Sojin Muneshi

    What a confected pile of steaming Spin this article is, the wind generators were not called into service, they just happened to be generating that day, and to equate the low generation reliability of wind to the occasional unplanned outages of conventional plants is outright dishonest, this has crossed the line from marketing to snake oil salemanship

  2. Jeffrey Anthony

    Sorry, Sojin, these are the facts, whether you like them or not. Wind energy is being a low-cost source of new generation all of the country, and is very reliable. Wind energy forecasting tells grid operators when to expect varying levels of output from (free, no-fuel cost) wind energy, and when wind energy output is down, they can rely on other generators. And in the recent case of cold weather across the U.S., there were a number of unplanned outages as well as planned outages at fossil fuel plants, fact. Wind energy was available, reliability, and helped keep the lights on while other conventional power plants intermittently dropped off-line — questioning their reliability during extreme cold events. Learn the facts, Sojin.

  3. Melissa

    Clearly diversity makes the grid more reliable but wind rescues the grid? Seriously, please try harder to report objective news. This article is absurd. Did wind achieve 100% capacity during the entire cold stregth? It is not as if the grid oeprators dispatched wind when other resources dropped off. Wind is an important part of the overall portfolio mix but this article is propoganda. Wind cannot operate without natural gas. It is not a conicidence that wind farms are colocated next to natural gas infrastructure so they can also operate gas turbines.

  4. Scott

    Wind is rarely if ever ‘co-located’ next to natural gas generation. Who cares if wind achieved 100% capacity during the entire cold snap? It was there and it was running and the amount it could provide was predictable. In that sense it was something that could be counted on, even if it wasn’t ‘dispatchable’.

  5. Lee

    Recent events events illustrate how wind power can be a plus. How many times it is a plus depends on wind conditions and what is happening with the grid, including relative power source pricing and generator outages.

    I’m very pleased to see the success of wind in this latest extreme weather event. Future success will depend on wind and how well the grid is designed and engineered. I have seem some indication that Texas has put resources into their grid as part of adding wind power.

    So far so good, congratulations to Texas for their wind power effort! And states will increasingly note instances when wind is their least-cost source of power.

  6. cary Shineldecker

    Not much data included. Mostly generalities. What conventional plants were shutdown unexpectedly? What natural gas power plants were shutdown because if the rise in costs. I believe the cost is still up. Which plants are still down. It continues to be cold are the plants still down? Which ones and why? Please verify. During the coldest part of the polar vortex the 100.8 MW wind development in Mason County was shutdown because of ice on the blades.

  7. jonzboy

    There is a big Energy difference between 0 deg and calm and 0 deg and 25 mph wind. Wind Power was there at the right time for a change. Everybody uses more Natural Gas so Utilities may be curtailed when it gets tight. Frozen Coal Piles can cause problems for Steam Plants also, reducing generation. Wind Power usually isn’t there in the intense summer heat.


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