Winterizing wind turbines is an important step to keeping turbines maintained properly. If companies don’t invest in taking the time and money to do this, it could cost them much more to repair if they get damaged during the winter time.
A good example of this is the winter storm that came through Texas in 2021. The storm took out many sources of power, including wind, which left homes and businesses without electricity creating an even more extreme situation.
This disrupted the health and safety of millions of Texans. 14 Million people (nearly half the state) had their water systems effected. This alone causes sanitation problems, broken pipes and other expensive damages, not to mention this being unsafe for people to be without a clean water supply. Some people are in physical conditions that they could get snow and melt it for consumption and sanitation, but for the sick, disabled, young and elderly, this isn’t easy. Worst of all of the ramifications, there were 246 deaths attributed to the storm.
“In addition to hypothermia, DSHS attributed the storm-related deaths to “exacerbation of pre-existing illness” (10%), motor vehicle accidents (9%), carbon monoxide poisoning (8%), fires (4%) and falls (4%).”
Victims ranged from ages less than a year old to 102 years old.
There were many variables that contributed to the power outages, but one of them was the fact that some of the turbines were not winterized properly, if at all. Texas winters don’t historically get so dangerously cold, so we can speculate that maybe the companies didn’t allocate resources to prepare for once in a lifetime winter storms.
Interestingly, winterizing turbines isn’t a one size fits all process. Wind farm managers and technicians need to put together a plan that is formulated around local weather patterns combined with assessing locations of the turbines in their area. Since ice can slow down the production of energy, operations need to balance the use of energy to heat and prevent ice build up, while producing enough energy to make up the difference.
Depending on the needs of each turbine, the most common ways to winterized them are by coating the blades with a spray de-icing agent and/or by installing an electric heating system of some kind.
Electric heating systems may include any variety of these elements:
*Weather Sensors, both primary and back up, to read the wind speed and temperatures accurately. These will inform other parts of the system if they need to kick on. Wind technicians will make sure that the wiring, digital and analogue cards are installed and working correctly. This can be monitored through the Top Cabinet Interface Controller (TCIC).
-Primary sonic anemometer-it’s more digitized.
-Wind vein and cup anemometer as a back up system.
You can read about the difference between the two systems here.
*Covers For Ventilations Grates. Different turbines have heating and cooling air ducts, like in your house. Turbines have a grate system that allows you to get wind flow from the bottom or the side of the tower, depending on what kind of system they are running.
*Heating Elements-these can be installed into the blade where they are needed the most to prevent or melt ice.
*Ice Detection Sensor-located in the control box. Once ice is detected it will que one of the heating elements to melt or prevent ice.