Minnesota’s frozen turbines raise new doubts about wind power

In Minnesota, the wind is blowing but turbines aren’t turning. The machines, bought used from California and installed last fall, are completely frozen in place. Even on the windiest days, the blades sit at a standstill, producing no power. Why should anyone care? The problem highlights some of the less intuitive challenges associated with wind power — long considered to be the most feasible and cost effective source of renewable energy.

The likely culprit in Minnesota: frozen hydraulic fluid, unfit for the state’s brutally cold winters. As the temperature continues to drop, these fluids have started to thicken, turning into jelly. This is a big problem, considering how much the Midwest has spent on trying to become the U.S.’s wind power corridor. Wind power is already intermittent — the wind isn’t blowing at gale speeds all the time. But being knocked out of commission for an entire season? That could be a deal breaker.


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