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Using old mines to make wind power as reliable as coal

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One of the main arguments given by opponents to wind energy is that it is unreliable. Its output is varible so it unable to supply a base load, which means we need to keep the traditional power stations to supplement them. This article describes how a solution has be found to a similar problem involving coal and has ran successfully for over 20 years on an industrial scale. I wonder if this technology applicable in the UK. There are many abandoned mines all across the north and plenty of wind. Close to the coast its quite reliable too.






Wind power has made incredible inroads into the U.S. energy system thanks to big, efficient machines standing hundreds of feet tall. But the future of wind power may be underground.


In the abandoned mines and sandstones of the Midwest, compressed-air storage ventures are trying to convert the intermittent motions of the air into the kind of steady power that could displace coal.


Compressed-air energy storage plants use compressors to store electricity generated when it’s not needed. The air, pumped into large underground formations, is like a spring that’s been squeezed and when it’s needed, it can deliver a large percentage of the energy that it received.


The first and only such plant in the United States went online in 1991, and though the technology didn’t take off, it did prove that it worked. And now, combining cheap wind energy and compressed-air storage could create a potent new force in the electricity markets.




“This is the first nonhydro renewables technology that can replace coal in the dispatch order,” said David Marcus, co-founder of General Compression, a new company that received $16 million in funding from investors including the utility Duke Energy to build a full-scale prototype of their energy storage system, which would be deployed with arrays of wind turbines.


The dispatch order is how grid operators decide which power plants to switch on. They have to balance the amount of generation and consumption or they risk the grid’s stability. The amount of power people use goes up and down, but it stays above a certain level all the time. To meet that need, utilities buy consistent always-on power from the large, cheap coal and nuclear power plants that are the backbone of the electric grid.


The electricity they need to meet the peaks in energy demand is generated by what are known as peaking plants, usually powered by natural gas. When the wind is blowing, it is usually the cheapest peaking power available, so it keeps the natural gas plants shut off. If they want to replace coal plants in the pecking order, though, they’ll have to work all the time.


And to do that, they’ll need a way to unlink themselves from the on-again, off-again nature of the wind.



Read More http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/03/.../#ixzz0httpUmYS

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Bloody hell.




No compressed air energy storage facilities are planned in the UK at present,

but work is under way at Nottingham University into the feasibility of storing

compressed air in huge bags under the sea.4



The irish are building one



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