Wind turbines shut down when needed most..

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Aug 17, 2016
We had an emergency alert at 7 pm last night to reduce power consumption immediately, or risk power outages. It was -39 C last night.
I realize that the power grid is more complex than wind, solar and coal plants, but still.

Most of Alberta’s wind fleet slowly shut down Thursday night, but not for lack of wind​

Jan 12, 2024
Brian Zinchuk

Brian Zinchuk
Brian Zinchuk is editor and owner of Pipeline Online


As cold temperatures descended upon Alberta’s wind generating assets, you could identify when they shut down due to the temperature, as shown in red. That’s a lot of red, across the 45 wind farms in Alberta.,

UPDATE: By 7:28 a.m., wind output fell to less than 1 per cent of capacity​

One of the first lessons any new engineering student learns in their materials class is “cold brittle behaviour” of materials. When it gets really cold, like -30 C or colder, many materials lose much of their strength and are prone to shattering. This applies to wind turbines as much as it applies to car bumpers.
And as a result, most wind turbines are shut down when the ambient temperatures reaches around -30 C, lest their continued operation cause them to shatter. And such shutdowns were plainly evident the evening of Jan. 11, on both the Alberta Electric System Operator website and on That’s a website that logs the minute-by-minute data published by the AESO regarding the Alberta electrical grid.
The screenshot above was captured at approximately 11 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 11. Temperatures were in the -28 to -30 C range for most of the areas of southern Alberta where the province’s 45 wind farms are located, according to That website is also very useful in showing windspeed and direction. And showed that it wasn’t for lack of wind those farms were shutting down. Nearly every location still had 7 to 9 knots of wind. That’s not a lot, but it’s not nothing, either.

This screenshot from at 11 p.m., Jan. 11, showed wind vectors and temperatures in southern Alberta, where nearly all of the province’s grid-scale wind generation is located.
That was clearly indicated by Blackspring Ridge, which all by itself was providing roughly half of the roughly 400 megawatts of wind power in Alberta at the time. Located near Lethbridge, it was producing roughly two-thirds of its nameplate capacity, despite wind speeds of 7 knots and gusts up to 16 knots at Lethbridge, while the temperature was -28 C. Stirling Wind, on the other side of Lethbridge, was producing 47 megawatts just a few hours earlier, before dropping to 2 megawatts at 9 p.m.
In the hour that followed, Blackspring Ridge, too, appeared to be spinning down in a linear fashion, producing 79 megawatts at 12:15 a.m. And at 7:28 a.m., it was at one megawatt.

As all of this was taking place, the pool price for Alberta flowed around the $450 to $667 range. There was a sharp uptick in prices at 5 p.m., as demand was peaking and wind assets were increasingly going offline.
Wind output continued to fall throughout the night. As the workforce was warming up its morning breakfast and coffee, wind power generation had fallen to 37 megawatts out of an installed capacity of 4,481 megawatts. That’s 0.8 per cent, or eight one-thousandths of nameplate capacity, on one of the coldest days of the year, produced by hundreds of wind turbines across 45 wind farms costing billions of dollars.
By this point, temperatures across southern Alberta had fallen to -31 C in most locations, but wind was still 7-9 knots in most wind-producing locations, according to
And since the sun had yet to rise, solar output was zero, out of 1,650 megawatts.
And power pool prices were expected to spike throughout the day, according to X bot account @ReliableAB
Anyone living in cold climates where these clean energy initiatives are being forced through, make sure you get your house equipped with a gas generator backup. When it's -15 F you don't have much time to figure out how to heat your home when the electric goes out.

Having a backup has always been pretty important, but I don't see the grid being more reliable with these changes either.
It is true that many forms of energy generation must make adjustments to produce power in extreme low temps. However, there's a difference between "making adjustments" (such as using thinner greases, adding heaters, etc) and just "shutting down".

In this story, there's no mitigation to the issue once it drops below -30C, the way I understand the issue. The blades and tower structure get so brittle that continued use risks destruction from vibratory effects. Hence, the system is flat out useless past a certain point of being too cold.

With other forms of power generation (i.e. coal and gas), they may have to operate at a reduced level, but they are not just "shut down" at temp "-X". Gas, in particular, does really well because there are no conveyor belts to freeze, blower chutes to clog, etc. as is the case with coal. About the only thing you have to worry about with gas fired power generation is moisture condensation in the extreme low temps, and some heaters and good condensate traps can deal with that.
They help power all the air conditioners in the summer, but that’s not a survival issue like -39 C is.
So do nuclear, coal, and natgas power plants, and they don’t need to be powered down in self-preservation, with millions of lives on the line due to weather conditions that demand electricity for heat.

I’m not entirely anti- wind or solar, but it should really only be added to the grid in areas where people will not be put at mortal risk by common environmental conditions that neuter wind and solar output!
I remember a pretty good winter storm knocking out the power in Chicagoland for a week about 20 years ago. Definitely wasn't the wind turbines. Can’t even count the number of brownouts in Cali due to the heat that happen almost yearly. Don’t fool yourself that this is solely a green power issue. Not like people don’t die in the heat either.
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