Despite violent southern Alberta gusts, wind farm turbines hold fast

Southern Albertans are used to the occasional wind warning, but with greener energy options sprouting across the region, how do wind farms handle the powerful punch from Mother Nature? Kyle Benning explains.

Wind warnings are synonymous with southwest Alberta, and Friday saw wind gusts up to 150 km/h.

When the wind is blowing that fast, it makes it harder to generate energy at wind farms.

“At a certain point, the wind turbine actually has to shut down to protect itself. So that would be around 120 to 130 km/h on modern wind turbines,” said Lethbridge College wind turbine technician instructor Ronald Papp.

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Gusts, he said, need to be pushing that speed at a constant rate for about five minutes for the system to shut down.

Papp added it takes some energy for the system to adjust itself or shut down when winds are moving too fast, but it’s a fraction of the amount it generates.

“If it’s 0.5 per cent of its energy output, it’s using a lot of its energy. It’s probably more like 0.1 per cent of its energy that it’s actually using to run itself,” he said.

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The Magrath Wind Farm has been running for about 15 years.

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According to the operator, Acciona Canada, the farm is projected to prevent nearly 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year.

Global News asked Acciona how frequently the turbines have to be shut down because of weather conditions. They responded by saying information related to generation losses caused by weather is confidential.

Papp, however, says every turbine in southern Alberta has been shut down at least once since its installation.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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