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Rolling blackouts from southern storm affect Iowa

Turbine at sunset
The Kirkwood wind turbine runs year round regardless of weather, and helps provide safe renewable energy for Kirkwood as seen on Wednesday, March 17, 2021. PHOTO BY JESSICA MCWILLIAMS.

Texas and Oklahoma were hit with a record-breaking snowstorm and freezing cold temperatures from Feb. 13 to the 17.  Dallas residents had pipes freeze and burst, something Iowa residents are relativity familiar with. However, much less expected to Iowa residents was the warning that they may face rolling blackouts because of the bad weather in Texas. 

Many Iowa residents were shocked by the news that they may lose power because of something happening so far away. Josh Bailey, a Kirkwood Community College student who lives on a farm neighboring several wind turbines, said, “I didn’t honestly know that we got power from Texas. I thought our power was local[y] based on all of the wind turbines that are in Iowa.”   


One might ask why Iowa would face blackouts from bad weather in Texas and Oklahoma? Both Iowa and Texas are major wind energy producing states, with Texas producing the most wind energy and Iowa producing the second most. 

 
Each state’s wind energy is in fact produced for a grid that transfers the power out of state. A great deal of Iowa’s wind power actually goes to Illinois and some of the wind energy produced in Texas goes to Iowa.  During the blizzard in Texas, many wind turbines froze and were unable to produce power. According to the New York Times, 14 states faced rolling blackouts to reduce the demand on the Southwest Power Pool to prevent uncontrolled blackouts.   

The news of possible power loss came as shock to students at Kirkwood Community College. Because of the green energy program many people assume that the power remains where it’s generated. Bailey also said, “I didn’t know that power could be transferred that far. I have a neighbor with turbines so I thought it stayed in the area.”   

According to MidAmerican Energy Company, which operates around 3,300 wind turbines across Iowa, while Iowa typically has several major winter storms each winter, the reason Iowa’s wind turbines don’t freeze and become inoperable is because when the wind turbines are installed there are cold weather packages that are installed as well.  The winter packages include heating elements that prevent freezing at temperatures as low as -20 degrees Fahrenheit.  

Image courtesy of Jessica McWilliams

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