Energy Sources Affected by the Weather

A consistent energy supply is critical to maintaining a functioning society. Medical services, production, refrigeration, and entertainment all rely on power plants to satisfy their electricity demand. 

However, sometimes the weather’s energy conflicts with power production. Extreme heat, very low temperatures, and extreme wind speeds can all both increase power demand and reduce energy output, leading to weather-related power outages.

How Does the Weather Affect Energy Sources?

Energy demand is not static. Instead, it differs based on temperature and weather patterns, especially heat, wind, and extreme cold. For example, massive heat waves increase the energy demand due to the rising need for air conditioning. 

Heat, wind, and extreme cold also impact energy storage and transport. Temperature fluctuations can prevent adequate energy generation at the time that it is needed the most, leading to power interruptions.

Some renewable resources may also significantly reduce energy efficiency during certain types of weather events, causing electricity outages if there are no backups. 

Types of Extreme Weather Events That Impact Energy Sources

Energy producers must carefully consider their local climate to assess the probabilities of high heat, dangerously low temperatures, and other extreme events when planning their energy infrastructure or upgrading their existing energy system. 

Common weather conditions that can seriously impact power input include heat, cold, storms, major precipitation, and storms. 

Heat Waves

More than half of weather-related deaths are due to extreme heat, which is why power output needs to be significantly boosted when temperatures rise to the triple digits. At the same time, high heat may damage distribution systems, causing them to fail right when they are needed most. 

Cold Waves

While it’s easier to warm up than it is to cool down, heating demand surges during cold snaps, and grids must be prepared for the higher energy requirements. Extremely cold weather can also reduce energy transmission and freeze components of the energy infrastructure. 

Freezing temperatures are especially concerning for hydroelectric plants, which require the constant flow of water to maintain service.

Ice accumulation is a major concern for power lines, which may be entirely encased in heavy layers of ice. This can cause them to bend, dragging on their poles; transmission lines that have not been properly maintained may snap. 

Heavy Precipitation

Heavy rainfall can destabilize power systems or lead to flooding within power plants. It can also break equipment, such as cracking solar panels. Oversaturated soil may also cause an issue for the safety of heavy structures like turbines. 

In northern climates, snow and ice are a major concern. Snow is very heavy, and when it settles atop tree branches, it may cause them to snap, which can damage power lines. 

Storm Events

Major storms, such as hurricanes, are incredibly dangerous for energy systems, potentially damaging energy infrastructure at a time when people need power the most. High winds and flying debris can bring down transmission lines or break turbine components at wind farms, which will lead to extended power outages as engineers work to repair the damage.

Types of Energy Sources Affected by the Weather

Extreme temperatures, particularly high heat, will disrupt energy production because of the higher cooling demand, both from end users and the electricity generation system itself. Every component of the energy infrastructure is impacted in some way by weather, though the reasons and mechanics differ. 

Thermal, Fossil, and Nuclear Power Plants

Thermoelectric, fossil fuel, and nuclear power plants are forms of energy production that burn fossil fuels like natural gas or coal, or leverage nuclear fission, to heat water, creating steam and pushing a turbine to generate electricity. Afterward, the steam is condensed and cooled to be fed back into the boiler, starting the process again.

These plants are sensitive to air and water temperatures because high temperatures don’t allow the generators to benefit from temperature differentials, which is what creates the electricity. Additionally, it takes longer to bring down the internal temperature of the coolant water, further reducing energy generation and potentially leading to power outages. 

Prolonged periods of high heat can cause droughts, which make it impossible to run the power plant. Both thermoelectric and nuclear power plants require a steady supply of water to create steam and cool the plant components. If water availability drops, so does power generation.

Renewable Energy Sources

In order to adapt to a changing climate, we must reduce carbon emissions in hopes of eventually reaching net zero emissions. Renewable energy sources like solar panels, wind turbines, and hydropower production are excellent ways to boost power production, but they are vulnerable to extreme weather events, just like more traditional power sources. 


Solar power is one of the most versatile renewable energy technologies, as it can be installed nearly anywhere. However, solar power production is predicated on sunny weather and wind within acceptable limits. 

During storms and at night, solar power production drops significantly. Though photovoltaic cells can store power to help prevent power outages, extended periods of cold, cloudy weather could significantly hamstring a solar farm’s ability to supply its service area. This is why renewable energy plants, as well as environmental research teams, utilize VisualCrossing’s solar radiation data to plan their projects. 

Wind speed also plays a role in a solar farm’s ability to generate energy. High winds can help cool the panels and improve energy transmission, but they may also carry debris like sand and dirt that will damage the panels, leading to costly repairs. 


Wind power resources are incredibly efficient and can be installed in otherwise wasted space, such as along a seashore, to capture the high winds common along coastlines. 

Wind farms work their best in a specific threshold of wind speed. Very high wind speeds can damage a wind turbine, while low speeds will prevent them from producing any power.


Hydroelectric power plants utilize water to generate electricity, and they are one of the oldest renewable energy systems. However, as they are reliant on consistent water levels, certain conditions can cause weather-related power outages. 

The most common problem for hydroelectric power is droughts, which are becoming more frequent due to the impacts of climate change. When water levels drop, there is not enough to move the turbines and generate electricity. If there’s been a significant dry spell, the waterline may fall below the intake channels, meaning there is no power whatsoever.

High water levels due to flooding can also be dangerous if water reaches above the reservoir line and damages plant components. Debris may strike rotors or jam turbines, which can be incredibly expensive to fix.

How Rising Sea Levels Could Impact the Energy Industry

Rising temperatures and more extreme weather conditions are hallmarks of a changing climate, but one of the most concerning trends is rising sea levels. Some of the most densely populated cities in the world are located next to an ocean or sea, including London, New York City, and Rio de Janeiro. 

Over 800 million people worldwide live in areas that are at increased risk of flooding due to higher sea levels. At the same time, 6,700 power plants worldwide lie in a Low Elevation Coastal Zone. These plants produce enough energy to power 90% of the entire United States, proof that their loss would mean catastrophic danger to humanity’s ability to power its needs. 

These power plants would be the hardest hit by a rise of even half a meter in sea level, potentially putting them out of production. Current climate research suggests that sea levels will rise by two feet (0.6 meters) between 2020 and 2100. 

Higher sea levels and increased ocean temperatures also increase the risk of storms that may lead to tragic consequences, as evidenced by the damage to the Fukushima nuclear power plant after an earthquake triggered a typhoon in 2011. Huge waves surged over the sea walls and damaged emergency generators, leading to a partial meltdown of three nuclear reactors. Well over ten years later, Japan is still working to make the decommissioned power plant safe, showing how dangerous rising sea levels can be.

For continued economic growth and the safety of millions, it’s important for each country to assess its energy infrastructure, develop early warning systems to prevent catastrophic failures, and build resiliency into its systems sooner rather than later. 

How to Keep Track of Weather for Solar and Wind Power Industries

Energy professionals have long recognized that diversifying energy sources leads to a more robust power grid that can withstand extreme weather events, as well as help to slow climate change. However, as renewable energy sources are intrinsically connected to weather, they require reliable data. 

The most important is assessing wind and solar elements in the weather API. These features allow one to look at the wind speed and distribution as part of the wind energy API, and assess solar radiation and UV levels in the solar energy API.

The solar energy API provides details that are custom-built for renewable resources, including assessing the global tilt irradiance (GTI). This metric helps engineers see how much solar radiation is hitting a tilted surface, such as a solar panel. Other metrics only look at a 90-degree angle, like between the sun and a flat plane, but this option provides a detailed look at exactly how much irradiation is possible on a given day based on the season and the panel angle. 

Wind speed metrics are incredibly useful for those manufacturing and testing wind turbines, as we provide measurements for several different heights. You can check speed and direction from 50 meters, 80 meters, and 100 meters, which are the most common heights for turbines. Additionally, you can report back in miles per hour, kilometers per hour, or meters per second, depending on your needs. 

A complex renewable energy system requires a variety of data to analyze from every angle, whether that is solar power or wind power. By tracking weather events, you can prevent damage to energy infrastructure and prepare accordingly for extreme weather events, ensuring that your customers don’t experience excessive blackouts when they need power the most. 

Need More Weather Data?

The VisualCrossing weather API provides vital weather data for use in web and mobile applications. Our API can be used by anyone, from the citizen scientist to the multinational corporation, thanks to its customization options and ease of implementation.

Whether you need specialized industry data on solar irradiation or just want to check the weather, VisualCrossing’s API has options to suit your needs. We also have extensive documentation to help development teams ensure a seamless integration with their mobile or web application.