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High winds shut down some wind turbines across North Dakota

Published: Nov. 17, 2021 at 6:31 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - If you stepped outside the last few days, you know it is windy in North Dakota. Some areas have seen wind gusts as high as 70 miles per hour.

But do high winds help wind turbines produce more energy? While you may think high winds mean more wind energy, it’s actually the opposite.

“A lot of people in the general public think that the higher the wind, the better for the wind turbine industry. That’s not the case,” said Bruce Emmil, National Energy Center of Excellence.

The Dean of the National Energy Center of Excellence at Bismarck State College says winds in the teens are ideal. When wind gusts climb into the high 40s and 50s, wind turbines are at risk of damage.

“The blades are always turning at the same speed, but just that force and that pressure on the blades can damage the blades, put more stress on the gear box,” said Emmil.

It’s why turbines are designed to monitor the wind and automatically shut down during an extreme weather event.

“They feather the blades so they stop spinning, and if there is any sort of emergency situation, they have essentially like a disc-brake system like a car has, and they can put the brakes on to essentially shut the entire system down,” said Peder Mewis, Clean Grid Alliance.

The Regional Policy Manager at Clean Grid Alliance says today’s turbines are equipped with very sophisticated technology to generate power safely. Only Mother Nature knows when all the state’s turbines will be up and running again.

Xcel Energy says some of their wind farms have been shut down for a time due to recent high winds. They say blade length and tower height also play a role in whether they can operate during high winds or not.

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