Friday, March 09, 2007

Everyone knows it's windy...

Ah, yes, reality sinks in for alternative energy fans. Literally. It seems wind and solar energy enthusiasts are encountering some resistance to their plan for saving the planet:

"This bill creates a set of winners and losers," said Ray Clifton, executive director of the Colorado Rural Electric Association, representing the state's 22 rural electric co-ops. He said under the legislation, payments to renewable owners would be more expensive than the wholesale electricity that co-ops buy for the bulk of their power.

Stan Lewandowski, general manager of Intermountain Rural Electric Association, said the legislation would reward owners of solar systems that generate power during daytime nonpeak-demand periods, leaving co-ops responsible for acquiring more expensive power during morning and evening peak periods. [more

Wind energy to be sure, but also solar has a the same problem as comedians:


Delivering lots of free power when nobody needs it is no help. Asking to be paid for it is another stretch. And then when the load is heavy...

This leads to bizarre ideas about how to match supply with demand.

The production of wind energy is quite variable, relatively unpredictable and not necessarily occurring at peak demand, thus as its use becomes more widespread it becomes more problematic to integrate it into the grid than conventional sources of power as it is not easily accommodated by switching on and off conventional energy suppliers, like coal fired power plants. The "Night Wind" project in the Netherlands uses an energy management methodology in which existing refrigerated warehouses are used to store wind energy produced during periods of low demand (at night) and then recover this energy during high demand periods (primarily during the day) thus relieving the grid of some of its demand during peak periods. An article in Nature described the process as follows:

The idea seems simple. 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 batteries -- potentially storing 50,000 megawatt-hours of energy -- i.e. store over twice the projected 2010 EU average hourly wind power production. [More]

Oooookay. Let all take deep breath and get real. We will be building turbines and solar collectors like crazy for the next few years, but don't expect them to put your kids through college or lower your electric bill without getting other taxpayers to foot the bill.

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