In Times of Need, Turbines Keep Turning
Advocacy Reliable and affordable electricity is a vital part of life, but it is often one of the first things lost when disaster strikes. Fortunately, wind power helps keep the lights on and electric bills down.
Diversifying our energy mix with wind energy helps make our power system more resilient. All power plants unexpectedly fail from time to time due to weather, component failures or accidents, but the loss of a small wind plant is less destabilizing to the power grid than the unexpected loss of a large conventional power plant.
Green-lighting the way
Aside from the inherent reliability benefits of a diverse energy mix, wind plants also have built-in features that help them stay online when the unexpected happens. Thanks to wind turbines’ sophisticated power electronics, they exceed the ability of conventional power plants to remain online when there is a disturbance on the power system.
“Wind and other renewables are uniquely immune to volatility in fuel cost, as the wind is always free.”
This is vital for preventing a cascading failure of power plants following a natural disaster, accident, or even an intentional attack on the power system. Wind turbines’ power electronics can also help return the power system to normal following a disturbance.
Cutting fuel costs
Wind plants also play a key role in protecting against fuel price spikes following a disaster. Wind and other renewables are uniquely immune to volatility in fuel cost, as the wind is always free.
The “Polar Vortex” weather event in 2014 is a prime example of how wind power can help keep energy reliable and affordable during a time of need. In just two days, wind saved consumers in the Great Lakes and Mid-Atlantic region over $1 billion on their electricity bills.
How did that work? Demand and prices for both electricity and natural gas rose sharply as people tried to stay warm. At the same time, the extreme cold caused many conventional power plants to unexpectedly fail.
However, the cold snap could have been even more expensive. Wind turbines kept turning even as conventional power plants became inoperable, helping to keep the lights on and energy prices down. Diversifying our energy mix with stably priced wind energy protects consumers every day, but the benefits are even more pronounced when disaster strikes.