Critics of wind power are quick to jump on the issue of intermittence: essentially, wind turbines produce power when the wind blows, and that's not always when demand for electricity is at its high points -- solar power suffers from the same issue. Until we find a way to store the electricity produced when it's not needed, large-scale wind power is just a pipe dream, they argue. A group of Danish researchers will be testing out a novel solution to this problem: using refrigerated warehouses as giant "batteries" for electricity storage. According to Nature, the idea is pretty simple on its face:
Say you lowered the temperature of all large coldstores in Europe by just 1°C during the night when electricity demand is low, then let it rise 1°C by switching them off during the day when demand is at peak. The net effect would be that the warehouses would act as as batteries — potentially storing 50,000 megawatt-hours of energy — and the food wouldn't melt.Theoretically, it is simple; in reality, there are still a number of hurdles to overcome, including the proximity of coldstores to wind turbines. Still, researchers from other parts of the world believe the idea is worth testing, and could serve as a useful counterpart to other storage proposals, including plug-in hybrids and "heat pumps that convert electricity to hot water..." The cold storage concept has one particular strength, though: the infrastructure for it is largely in place. After Gutenberg notes that the US, for instance, might have as much as 900 GWH of "energy-banking capability," or roughly 2 hours of average US electrical consumption, and "We’d have to build out one huge amount of wind and solar power capacity to strain that."
Is this a promising project, or are there elements of cold storage researchers haven't yet considered? We'll know in a year and a half: the Night Wind project runs through June 2008. ::Nature via Slashdot, After Gutenberg and Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends