Holding the title of the windiest portion of North America, the Great Plains of the United States are the perfect environment to cultivate wind energy. However, this region is also home to the most tornadoes on the continent. Approximately 800 tornadoes occur each year, which can pose a threat to renewable energy assets like wind farms.
On May 4, 2022 near Crowell, Texas, the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center issued a "moderate" tornado alert (level 4 out of 5) for the area. They warned of potentially long-living and strong tornadoes. The extreme weather resulted in several twisters, including an EF-3 tornado. Several people were injured, power lines were knocked down, and this video shows a bending wind turbine blade caused by a tornado that day.
Only some of the affects from a tornado can be prevented. Depending on the strength of the storm, wind assets can be protected to save millions of dollars in repairs. Wind turbines are designed to withstand wind speeds up to 150 mph (241 km/h). They can also be programmed to automatically shut down when winds reach a dangerous speed, then power back up once wind speeds normalize.
One method to prevent damage to your wind assets during extreme weather is enabling turbines to function cooperatively. When turbines can communicate with one another, units closest to the dangerous conditions notify downstream turbines in the same fleet to turn off. This can prevent bending blades, like in the video above, along with mitigating other forms of structural failure. Social turbines can also assist in automated curtailment, preventing the turbine from producing more energy than its grid is capable of holding.
The first commercially available solution enabling turbines to function cooperatively is WindESCo Swarm™. Taking cues from nature and the intuitive decision making of birds in flight, swarm is set to unlock millions of dollars for wind asset owners.