Story at a glance
- Researchers from Sweden power company Skellefteå Kraft use heating carbon fiber technology to prevent wind turbines from icing over.
- These devices are generally reserved for colder climates.
As Texas struggles to keep its infrastructure intact amid the icy chill brought on by Winter Storm Uri, research from another cold country could help the Lone Star state better prepare its power grid for future winter events.
Bloomberg reports that the work of Swedish researchers shows how to properly winterize wind turbines and other power systems to survive cold temperatures.
Engineers at the power company Skellefteå Kraft discussed how ice can interrupt operations and the power supply.
“The problem with sub-zero temperatures and humid air is that ice will form on the wind turbines,” Stefan Skarp, head of wind power at Skelleftea Kraft, told reporters. “When ice freezes on to the wings, the aerodynamic changes for the worse so that wings catch less and less wind until they don’t catch any wind at all.”
To prevent this problem ahead of time, maintenance workers found that adding a thin layer of carbon fiber to the wings of the turbines that can be automatically heated can prevent ice before it forms.
Anti-icing protection is primarily employed by aircraft companies, whose planes and devices must survive cold altitudes. This technology is expensive and can have a negative effect on turbine efficiency. Moreover, it is not suited for warmer climates, Bloomberg notes.