Saturday, March 22, 2008

Wind power revolution - Connecting wind farms

Wind farm. Click on picture for full size.

Wind power is renewable energy source with very large potential and is the fastest growing renewable energy source. However wind power has certain disadvantages mainly because wind isn't steady source of energy since wind speed changes a lot, meaning there's no certain energy delivery system. But this could be easily changed by connecting wind farms according to scientists at Stanford University and their latest study.

The key of this new method is connecting wind farms throughout a desired geographic area with transmission lines therefore creating one powerful energy source by combining electric outputs of all connected farms. This would really make the difference because with the help of this system wind power could become steady and reliable energy source that can constantly produce electricity just like power plants can, and regardless of energy demand.

The study also showed that if this intercontinental wind is used on large scale as much as third of its energy can be used for reliable electric power and to make things even better remaining energy can be used for transportation allowing wind to solve energy, climate and air pollution problems simultaneously as dr. Archer the study's lead author pointed.

Archer also said: "The idea is that, while wind speed could be calm at a given location, it could be gusty at others. By linking these locations together we can smooth out the differences and substantially improve the overall performance."

But one problem will still remain because not all areas are suitable for wind farms and only areas with strong winds can be economically competitive. Therefore their study included 19 sites in the Midwestern United States (area of highest wind power potential in US), with annual average wind speeds greater than 6.9 meters per second at a height of 80 meters above ground and the results showed that an average of 33 percent and a maximum of 47 percent of yearly-averaged wind power from interconnected farms can be used as reliable.

Another advantage of connecting wind farms is also in reducing the total distance that all the power has to travel from the multiple points of origin to the destination point, because wind gets combined into only one channel by connecting these farms to a common point, and then connecting that point to a distant city.

Basically high costs of long-distance transmission are main reason why wind power isn't the cheapest energy source and as dr. Archer said "20 percent reduction in transmission capacity with little delivered power loss would notably reduce the cost of wind energy" hence making wind power much more economically competitive especially since decrease in delivered power is according to Archer only 1,6 %.

This new study could truly be starting point of wind power revolution because it would mean much cheaper wind power which would make wind power much more competitive on large scale. Since there are no fuel costs and no environment pollution wind power could be just the right stuff that ecology as well as humanity needs in the fight against the global warming and polluted air.

These findings are published in the November issue of the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology.

US wind resource potential. Picture shows excellent resource potential of Midwestern US. Click on picture to enlarge it.

No comments: