Reliable Wind Power through Connected Grid

Researchers show how looking at the bigger picture can help to advance renewable energy in the United States.


“Making wind-generated electricity more steady will enable wind power to become a much larger fraction of our electric sources,” said Willett Kempton, University of Delaware professor of marine policy and author of a new paper which proposes linking wind powered generators to steady electrical production.

The paper, published in the April 5 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that by linking wind powered generation sites with a power line, the electrical output could be stabilized to avoid surges and drops.

Additionally, the researchers showed that wind installations should be set up and fine-tuned according to local meteorological data, and not just space available.

Smart thinking is what the researchers are looking for in future installations.

“Our analysis shows that when transmission systems will carry power from renewable sources, such as wind, they should be designed to consider large-scale meteorology, including the prevailing movement of high- and low-pressure systems,” said Dr. Kempton.

The study is based upon a hypothetical offshore wind farm based along the U.S. East Coast. The team analysed five years of wind observations from 11 monitoring stations stretching from Florida to Maine, and created a hypothetical power grid based on wind speeds at each location as if being powered by five-megawatt offshore turbines.

From this hypothetical power grid they were able to study the seasonal effects on power output.

“A north-south transmission geometry fits nicely with the storm track that shifts northward or southward along the U.S. East Coast on a weekly or seasonal time scale,” said Brian Colle, associate professor in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University. “Because then at any one time a high or low pressure system is likely to be producing wind (and thus power) somewhere along the coast.”

One of the main problems foreseen by experts with environmentally powered electricity generation is the fractious nature of … nature. Sun doesn’t always shine, water doesn’t always pound and wind doesn’t always blow. But by investigating a region’s weather patterns, and linking the sites with a power line, the output can be smoothed out so that maximum or minimum output is rare.

There are currently no wind turbines inhabiting US waters, despite multiple projects being proposed. This in contrast to the booming wind power industry in Europe, where the stormy nature of the North Sea and similar bodies of water make for perfect wind generation.

Source: Stony Brook University

Image Credit: chaunceydavis818 via flickr under a CC license

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