Through the extreme cold temperatures, wind power has helped provide electricity in demanding usage times around the U.S.
The recent polar vortex that swept through the U.S. brought dangerously frigid temperatures to the Midwest. Several energy plants were working at higher levels to make sure all customers could heat their homes. In Texas, residents typically don't have to worry about power outages due to cold weather.
However, thanks to wind power, many Texans were able to keep their power while there was so much stress on the grid, reported Climate Progress. Texas broke a new record in winter power usage and when some plants shut down due to the weather, the Texas grid operator had to implement some of their emergency plans to meet the power demand.
While the demand rose, the output from West Texas wind farms let the state avoid a severe emergency situation. This isn't the first time that wind power has saved the day for Texans. According to Climate Progress, in 2011, high wind outputs helped an increased demand of power while Texas was experiencing 100-plus degree temperatures.
Other states getting wind power help through the winter
Texas wasn't the only the state to get help from wind power through the frigid temperatures. According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), many cities in the upper Midwest were in danger of power outages during the cold weather. However, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) grid operator saw a high wind output of around 8,000 megawatts, which was enough to supply power to 6 million typical homes.
On Jan. 6, the Nebraska Public Power District was able to meet record winter electricity demand by supplying an excess of 300 MW of wind power, which represented approximately 13 percent of its total statewide demand, reported the AWEA. On Jan. 7, electricity demand in the Southeast reached the second-highest usage since the 1920s, reported the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Power outages are a serious concern for residents in the winter months and according to Climate Progress, from 2002 to 2012, there were more than 675 outages caused by cold weather in the U.S., which cost the country $18 billion to $33 billion per year, reported the President's Council of Economic Advisers and the Department of Energy.
"As a nation, we must take action to improve our electric grid if we want to meet the power needs of a pervasively digital society," Massoud Amin, electrical engineering professor at the University of Minnesota, said to Climate Progress. "Americans should not accept or learn to cope with increasing blackouts."
The intense cold weather is causing power outage concerns, but wind power is helping Texas and the Midwest get through high-usage times.