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How our wind turbines power through harsh Midwest winters

When there are frigid temperatures outside, do wind turbines freeze?
You may have heard about wind turbines in other states freezing when the cold comes through. Both the Texas freeze and the Iowa polar vortex in 2021 were events in which other utility companies’ wind turbines and blades faltered during the chill. But, the cold, hard truth is that not all turbines work the same when winter hits. In fact, over 90% of our turbines were unaffected by the extreme conditions during the 2021 polar vortex in Iowa when others struggled to stay operable. 
There are many factors to consider when it comes to our wind turbines operating in the freezing cold, but ultimately, it all comes down to one thing: preparation. Through our investments in cold-resistant technology and diligent preventive maintenance, our wind turbines are well-prepared to provide our customers with safe, clean and reliable energy, even during harsh Midwest winters.
How do we prepare in all seasons and stay reliable throughout wild winter weather events?

Investing in extra protection

Winter Wind Turbines
We add optional cold weather packages to every single turbine in our fleet. These system upgrades help keep the majority of our turbines spinning in temperatures as low as -22 degrees Fahrenheit. And, some of our turbines can perform in even colder temperatures!
As part of this cold weather technology, each turbine’s critical metal components are manufactured with cold-resistant steel to help them withstand Midwest winters. We also install heaters in each nacelle, which is the heart of the whole turbine generator system. It is essential to keep this area of the turbine warm.
Other components of the turbines are equipped with special heating elements to protect the electrical systems – like the gearbox, sonic wind sensor and more – from condensation or freezing temperatures.
Ice forming on a turbine blade can affect its balance and performance. If this does happen, our blades are equipped with systems to detect ice and shut down until the ice has melted, and the turbine can operate safely again.
Winter Wind Turbines in a field
Only under very rare circumstances does the cold weather force us to shut a turbine down, but when this does happen, we keep idle turbines warm to continue protecting their systems and ensure they’re ready to go once the blades are safe to spin again.

Proactive winterization

It takes more than extra equipment to keep our turbines spinning in extreme winter conditions. We take preventive measures every year to prepare our turbines for winter before the cold season even begins.
Because the cold makes things contract, we proactively switch out fluids like coolant or grease with weather-appropriate materials to make sure our systems are still well-lubricated and running smoothly. 

Always looking ahead

Winter Wind Turbines in a field
During days when it feels like it can’t get any colder, our team plans the process of gearing our turbines up for the warm weather to come. Even during peak winter months, we're performing the preventive maintenance necessary to make sure our turbines stay safe and reliable, not just for our customers, but for our partner landowners and the people who work inside the turbines, too. 
The seasons in the Midwest may feel long sometimes, but the next one always comes sooner than you think. Our wind fleet’s ability to withstand the winter shows that with the right planning, technology and processes, the turbines in our fleet can generate clean, safe, reliable energy year-round.

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