On the One Year Anniversary of the Polar Vortex, Wind Was 0.16 Percent Productive

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of the Polar Vortex, which enveloped the state in an arctic cold that pushed our energy system to the max.

You’ll remember that our friends at Xcel Energy sent out an emergency request that all 460,000 of their natural gas customers turn their thermostat down to 63 degrees to make sure there was not a widespread natural gas shortage, and there was virtually no wind on the system because of low wind speeds and because at -24 degrees Fahrenheit, it was too cold for wind turbines to operate.

Well, history repeated itself yesterday, at least in terms of electricity generation from wind turbines.

According to ElectricityMap, wind bottomed out at 9:22 am yesterday, utilizing just 0.16 percent of its installed capacity at that time. This means the wind turbines installed throughout the entire 13-state footprint of the Midcontinent Independent Systems Operator (MISO) were 99.84 percent useless at this time.

This serves as an important reminder that it doesn’t have to be negative 24 degrees for wind turbines to produce virtually zero energy, it can literally happen at any time due to fluctuations in the weather. In fact, there has been virtually zero electricity generated by wind turbines in MISO since January 27th, meaning the regional grid is in the midst of a four-day “wind drought.”

Despite the inherent unreliability of wind, Xcel Energy plans to spend more than $2.2 billion on wind turbines from 2019 to 2021, according to documents filed with the Public Utilities Commission. These wind turbines will be just as dependent upon weather patterns as any other wind turbine, which is ultimately why it is foolish for Minnesota lawmakers to mandate their use.

I strongly believe that someday in the not-too-distant future, people will look back at this time in our state’s history as a period where lawmakers squandered billions of dollars and more than a dozen years trying to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the least effective, and most expensive way possible.

If lawmakers truly cared about reducing emissions, they’d advocate for nuclear power, not sources of energy that randomly don’t show up to work.