How Shutting Down Nuclear Power Is Different Than Wind Power Intermittency

virginia hillside photo

photo: pfly/CC BY-SA

Right after the Fukushima nuclear disaster began I wrote about how wind turbines survived unscathed in the earthquake zone and began producing power again quickly, while the nuclear power plant... well, we know what happened. Most recently learning that residents who used to live nearby won't be going home for decades due to radiation exposure.

How I wish I could write that post again today, referring to the United States.Not that by any account I've read any wind turbines have been damaged. Though it's true that nuclear power plants got shut down because of the 5.8 earthquake in Virginia. Some top line similarities at best.

But the reason I can't write the same post is that the fact of the matter is the state of Virginia has exactly 0 MW of installed wind power. Neither does Maryland. States farther afield but which still felt a few seconds of mild shaking do have wind turbines, but these were, well, farther away.

The better similarity to raise is one that the American Wind Energy Association is pointing out (and Think Progress is as well).

There's a difference between the comparatively quick shut off of power to the grid that occurs when a disaster takes a nuclear power plant offline and when winds slow at a wind farm:

When large power plants like nukes trip offline, they very often do so instantaneously, presenting a real challenge to electric grids. By contrast, when winds calm, wind power generally slows predictably, allowing system operators to adjust and shift loads.

More on Wind Power
East Coast Earthquake Sends 2 Nuclear Plants Offline, Ceiling Tiles, Bricks to the Ground
Virginia's Earthquake-Triggered Nuclear Reactor Shutdown Explained

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