Texas is the number one state in the country for wind energy production. According to the state comptroller’s office, Texas has led the nation in wind-powered electricity generation for nearly two decades, producing over a quarter of the total U.S. wind energy in 2021.
As of 2021, the United States generates significant wind energy. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, wind energy accounted for approximately 7% of the country’s total electricity generation in 2020, and it is only going to grow as the United States aims to produce 20% of its electricity from wind energy by 2030.
While that’s a notable achievement and an exciting outlook, winter is also here. With it, colder temperatures tend to slow down just about everything. This has many people concerned about winter weather and its effects on wind power. This article will look at if winter will affect wind energy and provide some answers to questions you may have.
What Is Wind Energy?
Wind energy works by using the kinetic energy of wind to generate electricity. This is typically done by using wind turbines, which have blades that rotate when the wind blows through them. The rotation of the blades turns a generator, which converts the mechanical energy of the rotation into electrical energy. The electricity generated by the wind turbine can be used by all of us in our homes and businesses or sent to the power grid to be used by others.
A Brief History of the Turbine
Wind turbines date back to ancient civilizations when wind-powered machines were used for grinding grain and pumping water. However, the modern wind turbine as we know it today, which is used primarily for electricity generation, has a more recent history.
Danish scientist Poul la Cour built the first wind turbine capable of generating electricity in the late 19th century. His turbine was similar to today’s wind turbines, with a vertical axis and multiple blades.
As technology progressed in the 20th century, wind turbines became practical for electricity generation. In the 1930s, American engineer Palmer Cosslett Putnam built a turbine with a horizontal axis and three blades, which was more efficient than previous designs.
By the 1960s, large-scale wind turbine projects were built in California and Denmark. The 1970s and 1980s ushered advances in materials and aerodynamics that led to today’s reliable and efficient wind turbines that have become a common sight worldwide.
Where Does Wind Come From?
One of the most commonly asked questions with respect to wind energy is where exactly does the wind come from? What causes it to blow? So let’s answer this very fundamental question.
The wind is caused by differences in air pressure. When the sun heats the earth’s surface, it causes the air near the earth’s surface to expand and become less dense. As the air warms, it rises and creates an area of low pressure. Meanwhile, the air above the surface cools and sinks, creating an area of high pressure. The movement of air from high-pressure areas to low-pressure areas creates wind.
Other meteorological phenomena, such as pressure gradients and the Coriolis effect, can cause wind. The Coriolis effect is caused by the rotation of the Earth and causes the wind to rotate around large-scale weather systems such as hurricanes. Additionally, wind can also be caused by the movement of air over mountains and other landforms, which can create localized winds such as sea breezes and mountain winds.
The strength and direction of the wind can also be affected by the earth’s rotation and the jet streams, which are high-altitude wind currents that flow from west to east around the planet.
Wind Is a Natural Resource in Texas
By most measures, Texas is considered to be a windy state. It has a large area of flat, open land, making it perfect for wind-power generation. The Lone Star State has a lot of wind resources, particularly in the western and northern parts of the state and along the coast. Texas has the largest wind power capacity in the United States and is one of the leading states for wind energy production. The state has invested heavily in wind power in recent years, so wind energy now accounts for a significant portion of the state’s electricity generation.
Does Winter Weather Affect Wind Energy Production?
The cold is notorious for slowing down everything so naturally many people are curious if colder temperatures during the winter affect the production of wind energy. The answer? Maybe, but not necessarily. Let’s explain.
Wind turbines are designed to operate in a wide range of temperatures and weather conditions. They can still generate electricity efficiently in cold weather. The density of air increases as it gets colder, thus making the wind stronger and increasing electricity production.
However, extremely cold temperatures can cause problems for wind turbines if snow accumulates or ice forms on the turbine blades. Ice can be problematic for wind turbines and affect energy production 20% or more.
When ice accumulates on blades, it slows them down and reduces their output, especially when it accumulates unevenly. The added weight and uneven pressure can also strain the internal mechanisms and shorten their lifespan.
Wind Energy Producers Prepare for Winter Weather
Fortunately, wind turbine operators are typically prepared to minimize the impact of snow on wind energy production. For example, they may install heated blades or use de-icing systems to prevent ice and snow from accumulating. With proper maintenance and preventative measures, wind turbines can continue to generate electricity efficiently in snowy conditions.
How You Can Be Prepared for Winter Weather
Power outages are infrequent, but if worse comes to worst in a cold weather event, the best strategy is to be prepared ahead of time. Here are a few steps you can take to prepare your family for an electricity outage in the winter:
Create an emergency plan
Have a plan for how to stay warm, cook food, and communicate with others during an outage. Make sure everyone knows the plan.
Have an emergency kit handy
Stock it up with flashlights, extra batteries, warm blankets, and a portable radio. Consider investing in a small generator, and learn how to use it safely.
Keep your phone charged
Make sure your phone is fully charged if you think there’s a chance of an outage. A portable charger or battery can also be helpful in times of prolonged outages.
Layering your clothing can help you stay warm during an outage. Keep warm blankets, hats, gloves, and scarves handy and accessible.
Insulate your home
Without proper insulation, up to 40% of the energy spent to warm the air is lost. Insulate your windows, doors, and attic to keep heat inside your home. Seal cracks or gaps around windows and doors to prevent drafts.
Have alternative heat sources
If the power goes out, you’ll need a way to stay warm. A wood-burning stove or fireplace, a propane heater, or a kerosene heater are all good options but make sure you know how to use them safely.
Keep your fridge shut
If the power goes out, keep your fridge and freezer closed to keep food cold for longer.
Keep your car’s gas tank full
If an outage happens and you need to leave, keep enough gas in your car to get you where you need to go.
Energy Texas Is Your Reliable Source for Wind Energy All Year
All things considered, winter and cold weather do not stop wind turbines from generating electricity. It won’t stop solar panels either. So you can still be confident of the long-term return on investment from a wind or solar power setup, and you can count on Energy Texas to provide wind-generated power all year. That’s the position we take at Energy Texas, and it’s why our plans are created with renewable energy sourced from Texas-made wind and solar.