The main downside of wind power has always been its intermittent nature. Despite being one of the world's fastest growing sources of renewable energy, it continues to account for only slim percentages of most countries' electricity production (save Denmark) with many still leery of its perceived unreliability and lack of scalability. Two scientists at Stanford University believe they have the solution that will finally help bring wind power to the masses.
According to Mark Z. Jacobson and Cristina Archer, connecting wind farms throughout a given geographic area with transmission lines would make wind power a cost-effective, dependable alternative to fossil fuel or coal-based energy sources. The incorporation of transmission grids would help counter power swings caused by varying wind output, enabling wind energy to finally supply baseload power - a role typically assumed by power plant-derived energy.
"This study implies that, if interconnected wind is used on a large scale, a third or more of its energy can be used for reliable electric power, and the remaining intermittent portion can be used for transportation, allowing wind to solve energy, climate and air pollution problems simultaneously," said Archer. The upside is obvious: because any given wind turbine is bound to experience periods of inactivity due to wind variability, having many interconnected ensures that at least a few will always be supplying a consistent level of power.
Another advantage of this network would be to shorten the distance traveled by the multiple power sources by interconnecting the farms to a common point from which the power could be disbursed. Having several wind farms connected to a common point would also cut down on the costs of transmission and minimize losses in delivered power.
Such a scheme, Archer believes, could finally result in the large-scale market penetration of wind energy in the U.S. and other developed countries. As Roland Piquepaille points outs, however, this is easier said than done: "As there are many utility companies operating in the U.S., even in the wind energy sector, will these companies find their interest by consolidating their various wind farms? I'm somewhat skeptical."
Via ::EurekAlert!: The power of multiples: Connecting wind farms can make a more reliable - and cheaper - power source (news release), ::Emerging Technology Trends: Interconnecting wind farms (blog), ::Domestic Fuel: Stanford Scientists Look to Connect Wind Farms (blog)
See also: ::Uniting Europe's Wind Power Supply with a Continental DC Grid, ::Chinese Maglev Wind Turbines Enter Mass Production
Images courtesy of Mark Jacobson and Cristina Archer