Props for Props — Frozen Wind Turbines in Texas

Hogwash on Propwash in Texas

The state of Texas is the 3rd largest energy producer in the world. Yet, the state was thrown into energy management chaos by a winter storms Uri and Viola. Do frozen wind turbines in Texas mean wind power is ineffective?

Wind Turbine in Snow in Portugal from Victor Pinto on Unsplash
Wind Turbine in Portugal by Victor Pinto

Gas and Air

First, the multiple rounds of record breaking cold with snow and ice was unprecedented. You could say, the energy suppliers were caught unprepared for the frigid temperatures that shut down some natural gas operations and halted some wind turbines. The former of the two, natural gas, being the primary way in which Texas makes power. The unpreparedness of the energy entities is another matter and beyond the scope of this article. However, after witnessing various politicians and citizenry tout the stoppage of some wind turbines as an example of the unreliability of clean energy, I was curious.

All the Freezing

Upon doing a bit of reading it seems that takeaway is devoid of many facts. One of those facts being the reality that some natural gas operations, the main energy source, froze and went offline. Yes, some wind turbine operations also iced up and went offline. Before this terrific display of irresponsibility, by those whose charge it was to contend with contingencies, I wasn’t all that knowledgeable about how Texas handles its power. In the last few days, I’ve learned a great deal. I’ll include some resources at the bottom where you can learn more of the nitty gritty about that. In the meantime, I would like to address the frozen turbines and maybe Norwegians.

Are Norwegians Smarter

When I saw the first social media post about green energy causing the electricity meltdown in Texas, I thought, that’s odd, don’t they use those in Norway and Sweden? A quick jaunt to the YouTube research center quickly confirmed this. I found a video regarding wind turbines atop fairly unhospitable looking geography in Norway. So, what gives? Are they smarter than us? Not necessarily. It turns out that with wind turbines, you have the option to equip them with anti-icing equipment. For those in geographies where frigid weather is a guarantee, this anti-ice equipment is unquestionably included. But we’re talking about Texas.

Nordea Funds Wind Turbine issue in Norway
Wind Turbines in Norway (Photo Source: Nordea Funds – YouTube)

Props to Props

Yes, you probably guessed it. The wind turbines in Texas do not have the frigid weather accoutrement, because — Texas. Here, the weather is supposed to get chilly and maybe really cold for five minutes and then back to t-shirts. As I was reading about the different ways in which cold weather wind turbine gear can curb the chill, it occurred to me that this was not too unlike heated props and anti-icing equipment on aircraft.

Deice and Anti-ice

Think about it, even airline transport category aircraft swing by for a bath in deicing fluid before departure. Failure to do so is unthinkable and you wouldn’t insist the aircraft accomplish something beyond the realm of physics without it. In that context, you’d certainly agree, the truth matters. Back to that in a moment. But what about the other renewable thing all covered in snow?

Airplanes, Airlines in Snow - by Miguel Ángel Sanz on Unsplash
Photo Source: Miguel Ángel Sanz

Snow Panel

Photo Source: Eugene Zaycey

Alongside the blame on frozen wind turbines, I also saw quips about solar panels rendered ineffective after having been covered in snow. While states with a lot of sunshine have the greatest number of solar panel installations, New Jersey and Massachusetts are in the top ten. Apparently, they get some benefit in their very snowy wintry states. What’s more, Germany’s sunny days are on par with Alaska, yet they have long led the world in solar panel installations. Either these people are highly illogical, or there is some significant benefit even in colder, darker climates.

The Aviators Ethic

Aviation, Turboprop in Winter by Chris Vom Deich on Unsplash
Photo Source: Chris Vom Deich

As aviators, we must contend with a collection of facts and wrangle with the truth in order to make optimal decisions. I argue that the same applies to things not of the air. Well, things not of flying, because wind turbines are of and about the air. What’s the logic? Do frozen wind turbines in Texas mean wind power is ineffective? No! Wind turbines can be equipped with warming devices and a carbon fiber material that help belay ice and snow adherence. Plus, the prop blades can be heated, not unlike your propeller adorned FIKI approved sky-dragon. In the Midwest, Canada, and the aforementioned Norway, they are so equipped.

A Rare Commodity

In this age of free, fast, and unverified information, let’s employ a bit of what I’d like to coin, “The Aviator’s Ethic.” While you wouldn’t rely on confirmation bias and inaccurate information when determining fuel range in your aircraft, let us avoid this in everyday life as well. Wisdom seems a rare commodity and those who employ it, rarer still. So, trust but verify. That’s PIC.


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