Windy weather can be good and bad for wind energy

A wind map shows the best areas in Missouri for building wind turbines.

While it seems recent strong gusts of wind would be good for harnessing wind energy, one Columbia renewable energy organization says that's not the case.

In fact, when gusts exceed a certain speed, wind turbines are built to stop turning.

"The blades on a wind turbine are like the propellors on an airplane; if they spin too quickly, they'll fly apart," P.J. Wilson of Renew Missouri said.

"Wind turbines have a cut-in speed, a speed where there's enough wind for it to start turning around. And then they have 'overspeed protection'...where if it's spinning too fast they actually have a brake on the turbine that stops it and then turns the blades so that they're horizontal so the wind just goes around it and it doesn't beat itself to death."

But that doesn't mean that wind turbines aren't an efficient form on energy.

Wilson says tools like wind maps help make the availability of renewable energy resources predictable.

That's key to avoiding shortages, like the current national propane shortage.

"We know how windy it's going to be, on average. So that means we can predict that next year it's not going to be a year where the wind doesn't blow at all or the sun doesn't shine at all. Renewable energy is very predictable in that aspect and that's an advantage that it has over using natural gas or propane where you don't know what the prices are going to be or what the availability is going to be," Wilson said.

Wilson said wind maps show areas in northeast and northwest Missouri to be prime for building wind turbines for utility purposes. That means they are regularly windy and have nearby transmission lines that could distribute the energy across the state.

Wilson said a study showed that if wind turbines were built in all suitable areas in the state, Missouri could get 110 percent of its power from wind.