By Brian Eckhouse
For a wind farm in the path of a hurricane, location matters.
Pattern Energy Group Inc.’s Gulf Wind farm in Texas remained in operation even as Hurricane Harvey devastated the state with a deluge of rain and winds that reached 130 miles an hour. The 283-megawatt power plant is in Armstrong, about 85 miles (137 kilometers) from Corpus Christi, where the storm crashed into the coast.
Fortunately, it’s to the south. Harvey made landfall northeast of Corpus Christi and then continued toward Houston. The storm is responsible for at least 30 deaths and estimates for the economic impact have climbed to $90 billion.
“We were on the clean side of the storm,” said John Martinez, Pattern’s director of operations. “The dirty side is the side coming right off the water.”
Too much wind — usually above 55 miles per hour — means turbines must be shut down. Gulf Wind experienced gusts of about 50 miles an hour, just below the threshold, and had sustained maximum production for much of the first 36 hours of the storm, Martinez said. Maximum production typically happens when wind speeds reach between 26 and 30 miles an hour.
Other wind farms that were forced to shut down are now back online, according to the American Wind Energy Association, though one site remains down due to the loss of the local transmission grid near Corpus Christi. Wind often supplies about 20 percent or more of the power in Texas during the windiest parts of the day, according to grid operator Electric Reliability Council of Texas. That slipped to about 13 percent on Aug. 26, when Harvey hit.
An Avangrid Inc. plant in the region was producing partial power by midday Saturday and back at “virtually full power” Monday, a spokesman said.
“I’m just happy the sun is out,” Martinez said.