MidAmerican sets wind generation record during stormy week

DES MOINES — The spokesman for the state’s largest utility company says the heavy winds that accompanied the storms last week helped create an electric generation record.

MidAmerican spokesman Geoff Greenwood says the company’s turbines did a lot of turning. “Those steady high winds that we had throughout the week really, really made wind energy fare really well,” he says. “We cranked out a lot of wind energy, and in fact on Friday we said a peak daytime record for wind energy output here in our state.”

Greenwood says the company’s turbines produced 158,000 megawatt hours of wind energy, which he says is at least the amount of energy MidAmerican customers would use in a day. He says they can make adjustments on the turbines if the winds become too strong. “Depends on the equipment and the manufacturer. So each has a different tolerance. But if it does ever get to that point, we will turn the wind turbine blades to reduce the resistance against the wind and it causes them to slow down a little bit so we can control them if they get too high, but we didn’t get to that point,” he says.

Greenwood says icy conditions can be a problem for the turbines. “We’ve got sensors on our wind turbines if they do have an ice build up then we will shut them down or the system shuts itself down so that turbine will stop turning if it senses an imbalance due to ice,” Greenwood says.

There were bitterly cold temperatures and Greenwood says their turbines have winter packages to deal with that. “Not to say that we don’t have an occasional problem with a wind turbine as you do with any piece of mechanical equipment but by and large last week our wind energy really really performed,” he says.

Greenwood says turbines are rated to work in temperatures down to 22 below zero, and could possibly work below that. Most Iowans heat with natural gas, and he says usage was up with the subzero temperatures. “Interestingly we didn’t set any natural gas records it was very cold but it was not a peak record that we set,” Greenwood says.

He says customers may see a higher heating bill than normal for the month, but that depends on how the temperatures play out the rest of the month.