Methods of electricity storage are considered essential in grids that have large proportions of wind capacity. This is because, surprisingly, winds have been known to quieten down a bit from time to time.
Some people take this fact too far. For example, there is the “Northern European Winter High Pressure” lobby, who continue to insist, in a number of forums, that low aerial flow entirely compromises wind energy expansion, just because there are several days in December or January that might be a little flat.
A couple of examples :-
This argument has been raging for a while now :-
And some of the anti-wind lobby may have a point or two (although aesthetics is not a viable one). But limitations from variability are not as bad as they may at first seem :-
Dr Gregor Czisch is publishing the English translation of his doctoral thesis on supergrids in July, and we can hope for a rush of interest in his conclusions, which amount to : “low-cost low-carbon energy forever” :-
What will help people feel confident about the expansion of wind power will be the development of different methods of storage, for when the sky does become calmer than normal.
My favourite technology design of the month is…rock batteries. Yes, batteries composed almost entirely of pulverised gravel :-
Whether or not they live up to their design, I think the idea, alone, is worthy of praise.
The “geographical scale” solutions for storage include pumped (water) storage, for which you need to build uphill lakes; and CAES compressed air energy storage, which is fine if you have an underground sealed cavern all naturally there in the rock, like…an old natural gas well or something…at sea, perhaps…
Turn your old North Sea oil rig platforms into wind farms and pump air into the old oil and gas wells for low wind moments, and hey presto ! Variability-free renewable offshore energy !
Weird and wild other ideas could include :-
a. Using special electromagnetically isolated rock formations as kind of supersized capacitors…no, that’s probably completely impossible, but it sounds cool.
b. Using spare wind power to drive some chemical reformation that can be undone to release electrical power again. I know, I know. Hydrogen reformers are already being used in combination with Wind Turbines as discrete “sets”. I’m thinking more generally :-
c. Superconducting flywheels.
Here’s more ideas in the making :-
Anyway, the American Wind Energy Association thinks energy storage is unnecessary to back wind power up :-
Wind Power works. There is much evidence. And there are co-benefits. Click the link and choose the Carbon Nation film sneak preview “Wind Miracles in Texas” :-
Carbon Nation Sneak Preview :-
Our Renewable Nation interview :-