Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Large Scale Wind Power Is a Nightmare! How to Manage the Green Disaster

Wind energy is fine for small, off-grid applications or for small grid - intertie. But on a large scale, wind power is an unpredictable whipsaw of a disaster -- almost impossible for a power utility to manage.
"It's a war zone, trying to keep the lights on," said Philip LeGoy, senior consultant, Electricity Supply Board International (ESB), in Dublin, Ireland. "We are reacting out of panic. I feel like a member of a platoon, not an engineering group."

Speaking at the Renewable Energy World Conference & Expo. held March 10 to 12 in Las Vegas, Nev., LeGoy was not talking about a battle with guns and explosives. He was explaining how difficult it is to balance the Irish grid now that wind power generates 25 percent of its power. The wind availability in Ireland is typically around 30 percent, while traditional thermal plant has generation availability of about 85 percent.

Peak demand on the island of Ireland is about 6.5 GW. The system itself is practically an isolated island, with just a small 400 MW interconnector between Northern Ireland and Scotland. Before 2000, there was practically no wind generation. Today, more than 800 MW of wind is connected to the system with variability that runs from practically zero to more than 700 MW—and the government has set targets of 3,000 MW of wind generation and 500 MW of ocean energy generation by 2020.

"It's a shock to the grid," said LeGoy, "and what Ireland is going through is a good example of what's to come for others." _PowerEngineering
One possible solution for both wind and solar energy on the utility scale, is the use of a new technology called reversible fuel cells. When the wind or solar arrays are producing excess power, the reversible fuel cell will be in electrolyser mode: producing hydrogen. When the wind stops blowing and the sun stops shining, the fuel cells will switch to fuel cell power generation mode. As a load leveling method for wind and solar, such reversible fuel cells -- if scalable -- hold the potential to open these technologies up to the larger world. Without such utility scale regenerative power storage systems, large wind and solar will remain overpriced disasters.

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