What happens to wind turbines in strong winds?

With a recent inundation of storms battering the country, there are many obvious effects: flooding, damage to buildings, travel disruption; but what happens to the wind turbines dealing with gale-force gusts?

When extreme weather hits Britain, causing very high winds, turbines do occasionally have to be shut off; generally this only occurs at speeds far higher than we usually see in the UK. In the instances that turbines are not switched off, it can have dangerous repercussions, such as the events that occurred at Ardrossan and Anglesey. Within each of these cases, high winds caused the wind turbines to catch fire due to the intense friction that was generated. Preventative measures should be taken during dangerous weather; the blades on turbines are supposed to be “feathered”, or twisted, so they no longer catch the wind and rotate. This will cause them to gradually slow down then come to a stop until the winds reach normal levels again.

Most larger turbines can stand very high wind levels, with it being rare that they must come to a stop. Some even have shutdown triggers, such as average speeds over a short amount of time, whilst others will shut-down when triggered by a large gust of wind, i.e. 100 mph. In these occasions, the turbines shut down for a period of time until it is safe to start back up.

It is worth noting that events as extreme as fires will only occur in the very rare circumstances that the weather will be extreme enough to trigger shutdowns, such as when winds hit extreme speeds over very high ground. However, with another storm on its way, we may see more shutdowns in the next coming days.