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Winter: Not A Good Season For Renewable Energy Production

Winter may not be a good time for renewable energy production: biodiesel congeals in tanks, solar panels generate less power because there is less sun and wind turbine blades ice up, New York Times reports.

Last year a Summit Stage bus stalled in the middle of the night on Interstate 70 in the Colorado mountains because a 20 percent biodiesel blend congealed in the freezing temperature. Since then the bus line avoids biodiesel from November to March, and uses only a 5 percent blend in the summertime.

Unlike solar panels that generate less energy in winter because of less sun, wind turbine typically generate more power because it is generally windier than summer. Green Mountain Power, which operates a small wind farm says it gets more than twice the monthly production in winter as in August.

But some observers say cold weather is hazardous for wind turbines because the machines can hurl chunks of ice as they rotate. To alleviate the situation, some turbines are painted black to absorb sunlight and melt the ice faster.

Ron Stimmel, an expert on small wind turbines at the American Wind Energy Association, disagrees that wind turbine are dangerous in winter. He told the New York Times that large turbines automatically turn off when ice builds up, and that small turbines will slow and stop because the ice prevents them from spinning.

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