These cold temperatures are also affecting wind turbines. Officials say it’s not the main reason for what’s going on with the electrical grid, but is certainly adding to the problem.
In 2019, wind accounted for nearly 20 percent of the state’s electricity generation. While wind turbines can be helpful in generating electricity, there are times when they aren’t able to run efficiently.
The Southwest Power Pool, which oversees the electrical grid for most of the central part of the country gets some of its electricity from wind generation.
“There are times when the wind will literally provide 65 to 70 percent of the electricity that’s being consumed in that particular area,” said Chris Nelson, South Dakota’s Public Utilities Commissioner.
But then you get weeks like this. According to Nelson, wind power was only contributing eight-percent of the electricity on Monday morning and only ten-percent Tuesday morning.
“We’re thankful for that much, but it’s certainly not the amount that we need to carry us through when we’ve got these very, very cold temperatures,” said Nelson.
If it gets too cold wind turbines aren’t able to run.
“When they get below -24 we’ve got to shut them off because of that point the metal becomes too brittle and they simply cannot operate reliably,” said Nelson.
SDSU Electrical Engineering Professor Reinaldo Tonkoski says work is being done to try to make wind turbines more reliable during these cold times.
“De-icers for wind turbines. Some people are trying drones, some people are trying different approaches. It’s just still something that the technology is being developed. We need to remember that wind and solar technology is pretty young compared to other technology, so there’s a lot of research and development going on,” said Tonkoski.
In general, Tonkoski says it’s important to not put all your eggs in one basket. That’s why companies like East River Electric diversify how they generate electricity. Besides the wind, they use other resources like coal and natural gas. However, there is currently a natural gas shortage caused by frozen wells.
“So that’s the situation we find ourselves in. It’s kind of a perfect storm,” said Chris Studer, Public Relations Officer for East River Electric
One thing that can be done to weather this storm is for everyone to conserve as much energy as they can. Ways to save energy include turning your thermostat down a few degrees, turning off lights, and avoiding using any large appliances like a dishwasher or washer and dryer.