Sweden advises Texas on restarting frozen wind turbines as power cut


Texas may be the energy powerhouse of the US, but it has not held up to its name after historic freezing conditions froze the state’s power facilities and mainly its 10,700 wind turbines.

Sweden, which is known for its colder climate, has offered the Lone Star State some advice to keep the wings moving no matter how harsh the weather – and it only requires ‘the right gear.’

Skellefteå Kraft has experimented with operating wind turbines in the Arctic and coats the wings with thin layers of carbon fiber that automatically heat to prevent ice from forming.

The firm also uses sensors in the blades that detect when there is a risk of ice formation and starts the de-icing system before freezing starts.

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Texas may be the energy powerhouse of the US, but it has not held up to its name after historic freezing conditions froze the state's power facilities and mainly its 10,700 wind turbines. Pictured is a wind farm in Sweetwater, Texas

Texas may be the energy powerhouse of the US, but it has not held up to its name after historic freezing conditions froze the state’s power facilities and mainly its 10,700 wind turbines. Pictured is a wind farm in Sweetwater, Texas

Texas uses a range of power sources, including coal, gas and nuclear facilities, all of which are down amid the deep freeze that blanketed the state.

There are more than two million Texans without power and although wind accounted for some 13 percent of the share, it is a major resource – it supplied 23 percent of Texas’ electricity in 2020.

However, it seems that the choice of energy is not to blame for power outages, it is how the wind turbines were designed.

Texas’ turbines were built more than eight years ago when de-icing technology was not widely available and due to its warmer climate, many officials may not have even considered such additions. 

There are more than two million Texans without power and although wind accounted for some 13 percent of the share, it is a major resource – it supplied 23 percent of Texas' electricity in 2020. Pictured is a neighborhood in East Austin

There are more than two million Texans without power and although wind accounted for some 13 percent of the share, it is a major resource – it supplied 23 percent of Texas’ electricity in 2020. Pictured is a neighborhood in East Austin

But according to the Swedish firm, carbon fiber and heat sensors could have avoided the current power outage crisis.

Stefan Skarp, head of wind power at Skelleftea Kraft, told Bloomberg: ‘The problem with sub-zero temperatures and humid air is that ice will form on the wind turbines.’

‘When ice freezes on to the wings, the aerodynamic changes for the worse so that wings catch less and less wind until they don’t catch any wind at all.’

Skarp notes that although the de-icing technologies are the way to go when using wind turbines, they are also more costly.

Such winter-proof units are about five percent more expensive and output from the turbines may also be reduced in order for the system to keep warm, Sharp explained to Bloomberg.

Approximately 1,697 miles north of Texas sits Canada is home to wind farms, but experiences deep freezes about 20 percent of the time between November and April.

Officials have opted for ‘cold weather packages’ that heat crucial turbine components such as the gearbox, yaw and pitch motors, according to the Canadian government.

The special technologies have allowed some turbines to operate in temperatures as low as -22F (-30C). 

Although wind turbines have been named the culprit for the power outages, but 40 percent of power in Texas comes from natural gas.

Skellefteå Kraft has experimented with operating wind turbines in the Arctic and coats the wings with thin layers of carbon fiber that automatically heat to prevent ice from forming

Skellefteå Kraft has experimented with operating wind turbines in the Arctic and coats the wings with thin layers of carbon fiber that automatically heat to prevent ice from forming

Michael Webber, an energy resources professor at the University of Texas at Austin, told the Texas Tribune: ‘Texas is a gas state.’

Webber says all of the state’s energy sources are to blame, but ‘gas is failing in the most spectacular fashion right now.’

An Electric Reliability Council of Texas official said Tuesday that 16 gigawatts of renewable energy generation, mostly wind generation, was offline. 

However, 30 gigawatts had been lost from thermal solutions, which includes gas, coal and nuclear energy.



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