Turbine Turbulence: How to Fix U.S. Wind Power

Why is U.S. wind power output two million times below its potential, accounting for just one half of one percent of our annual consumption? (For point of comparison, Denmark currently gets 20% of its electricity from wind). Popular Mechanics sums up some of the challenges and potential solutions.

– Inconsistency. If the wind is blowing at night, and the grid is too full to soak up the excess energy while the town sleeps, a lot of energy goes to waste. And there’s no quick fix for a windless day. Batteries are the answer of course, but batteries make more sense for individual homes than they do for entire cities.

– The biggest wind farms are deep in rural areas such as North Dakota and Kansas, but it takes big pipes to bring the electricity they generate back to city grids. At a cost of $1 million/mile, no one wants to foot the bill. But all power sources need feeds to home-base, so wind energy should be taken into account along with other power sources when planning grids.

– Though an estimated terrawatt exists up to 50 miles off-shore, deep-sea turbines present their own set of problems – oil rig style platforms have to be enhanced to withstand the horizontal shear of blades as big as football fields, and floating them around is more complex than it sounds.

More info.

Music: Mercury Rev :: Hudson Lines

3 Replies to “Turbine Turbulence: How to Fix U.S. Wind Power”

  1. Can’t electricity be used to generate Hydrogen from water through Electrolysis? If the wind energy would just “go to waste” if the grid was underutilized, it seems to me that using the excess to produce Hydrogen would at least be better than having to shut down generation…

    I know it clearly isn’t the most efficient transportation/storage technology, and the “Hydrogen Economy” touted by the Bush administration is mostly overblown rhetoric, but if the problem is storage and transportation, perhaps Hydrogen could at least be a stop-gap storage solution until better (and more environmental) batteries are able to be used…

  2. That’s a pretty cool idea Sean — the concept of “battery” can be extended to all kinds of things, and hydrogen cells would be an excellent one. Someone, somewhere has got to be on that trail already. And if not, consider a career shift.

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