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Power Technology

In Oregon, Wind Power Surges Disrupting Grid 506

Posted by timothy
from the need-more-flywheels dept.
cpm99352 writes "The Oregonian reports gusts of wind cause synchronized power surges, more than the transmission lines can handle. Windmill farms are ordered to fan their blades, despite tremendous demand for 'green' power from California."
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In Oregon, Wind Power Surges Disrupting Grid

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  • by retro83 (1224258) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @04:53AM (#32961390)
    Why not use the energy during these peaks to pump water up to the top of a tower, then gradually release it as required. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pumped-storage_hydroelectricity [wikipedia.org]
    • by thijsh (910751) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @05:08AM (#32961456) Journal
      Towers won't work, you need a lake to be able to store a capacity you can actually use. Dutch wind energy is currently being stored in Norwegian lakes (because here it's flat, and they have mountain lakes). Apparently the advantage was worth laying the worlds longest underwater power line between nations.

      But taking this idea a step further for local power generation: Why convert to electricity in the first place? If you pump water to a higher place you might as well let the windmills pump it directly (that's why the Dutch invented them after all), you have an immediate buffer in the lake so you can never pump too hard, and the hydroelectric generators can be throttled easily. You have the benefits of a buffer and a higher efficiency, as well as a more simple design (no high-tech generators needed in every windmill). Damn great idea, if I say it myself... Must be because I'm Dutch. :-)
      • by Councilor Hart (673770) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @05:22AM (#32961514)
        You want to pump water over what kind of distances? From holland to norway?
        • by thijsh (910751)
          I kinda jumped to another idea, more in reference to the situation from the article than my little sidestory. Obviously it would only work in a location where there is a local height difference. But then again I don't know the losses involved with transporting power or water over long distances, there is probably some upper bound for distance but I wouldn't know it. A big water main that is being pressurized by an array of windmills in the sea can pump water over a distance of a hundred miles for example...
        • by russ1337 (938915) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @10:02AM (#32963612)

          You want to pump water over what kind of distances? From holland to norway?

          no no no.... use wind power to create electricity locally and heat local water so it evaporates into clouds. Then blow those clouds over the lakes in Norway using really big fans. Then fire lasers at the clouds so it rains into those lakes to get the hydro electricity you need. Do I have to think of everything.... gosh.

      • by c0lo (1497653) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @05:39AM (#32961604)

        Dutch wind energy is currently being stored in Norwegian lakes (because here it's flat, and they have mountain lakes). Apparently the advantage was worth laying the worlds longest underwater power line between nations.

        With my emphasis on the quote above, I reckon that if the Oregon->California electrical lines would be of the same quality, then we wouldn't see TFA on /., would we?

        But taking this idea a step further for local power generation: Why convert to electricity in the first place? If you pump water to a higher place [etc.]

        Now, as a Dutch you should now that the Dutch windmills were used initially to pump water out, not to generate the electricity.
        Where is this relevant? If your main purpose is to generate electricity, then each step of transforming energy in different forms will cost you at the bottom line (efficiency goes down). I'm not saying that transforming wind (kinetic) energy in water accumulation (potential energy) is stupid if you have excess of wind energy But if you don't have excess, then direct transformation into electric energy will offer you the best return.

        • by thijsh (910751) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @05:52AM (#32961674) Journal
          Pumping water with wind energy insures you can use wind energy as a baseline power supply (although it's actually hydro energy that achieves it). You lose some efficiency in raw power output, but since you can spread the use out to all day wind or no wind you increase the worth of that generated power a lot. The biggest disadvantages of both wind and solar is that they can't supply the base load 24/7. Mitigating that problem by reducing efficiency is a trade-off that can really help renewable energy become more mainstream and reduce our dependence on fossil fuel (which is still used mostly to supply baseline power). Also with scarce wind available this may still increase the value of the wind energy enough to make it worth the trade-off... Maybe not today, but soon enough.

          As for the 'as a Dutch you should know'; when you quote someone it helps to also read the part you replaced with '[etc.]' since I already noted that windmills were created originally to pump water...
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            Basically, this. There also is research into storing the energy as compressed air. [wired.com] The compressed air can also be generated directly by the windmills [youtube.com] (sorry for the marketing video, was to lazy to search for a more scientific source)
          • by c0lo (1497653) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @07:08AM (#32962076)

            Pumping water with wind energy insures you can use wind energy as a baseline power supply (although it's actually hydro energy that achieves it). You lose some efficiency in raw power output,

            I didn't say that balancing the input/output and buffering is a bad idea.
            I only said that if the energy is needed in the grid, you should deliver it directly instead of storing it in water towers.

            Maybe I took wrong your first post when you say taking this idea a step further for local power generation: Why convert to electricity in the first place?: it looked to me as you suggested to always store it as hydro - if that's indeed what you were saying, my argument was against "always" which should be replaced with "when in excess".

            Mitigating that problem by reducing efficiency is a trade-off that can really help renewable energy become more mainstream and reduce our dependence on fossil fuel

            So, reducing the efficiency plus investing in a hydro buffer does make the energy become mainstream? Something is wrong in my world which, like/agree with it or not, is currently driven by prices. Until the freaking "price on carbon" is not injected into the world's economy (in no matter how: "trade-able emission quota", "penalties for extra emission", etc) I don't think this is going to happen.

            Other than that, even buffering an unpredictable input it is not without technical difficulties:
            a. in your example, to store the excess in Norway lakes, you need a cable that's currently the wonder of submersible cables. And TFA was saying "the grid is the bottleneck, otherwise the CA people would be happy to suck the energy in". If you need to lay a line to the appropriate lake and build a hydro on it, wouldn't it be cheaper to just enhance the current grid which acts as a bottleneck?
            b. what if you don't have enough water around to raise in the tower/lake? The "buffering" solution will still be valid, except that hydro is not the only buffer possible
            c. what if the lake you use doesn't have enough capacity for the excess you record? What makes more economic sense: invest in a "bigger lake" or just let the excess go?

            • by thijsh (910751)
              You raise good questions, but it's a matter of the best solution for a local area... that will be different all around the world. But a technique with wind/hydro will work anywhere near the coastlines given enough gradient, that's why it doesn't work in the Netherlands, and we need the long cable to Norway... we lose a lot of energy that way, but when the *excess* energy would go unused otherwise it's pure profit indeed.

              Increasing cost on fossil fuel will probably make solutions like buffering renewable e
      • so smart, but unable to do anything to do anything about it because they're stuck there with their fingers in a dyke

      • The windmills are in holland, the water in norway. THat would be one hell of a drive shaft.

        Electricity is simple, you can have one system that puts it out and another that takes it in and do all sorts of stuff with it in the meantime.

        Say for instance the windmill brakes, with your solution, so does the pump. One system after all, same as your car won't move with a broken engine. But if the windmills fall down, the train still run.

        Take the average windmill itself, FAR simpler to run a power cable down the

        • by thijsh (910751)
          People a few centuries back beg to differ... It's simpler tech, do you have any idea of the complexity and cost of modern windmills? And bending the shaft,... What gave you the idea that would ever be needed???
      • Digging a big hole is much easier/cheaper/safer then building a large tower (which would have to be massive to store a useful amount of water).

        Even better, use the dirt from the hole to build a hill and get double the height. Tada!

      • by sjwt (161428)

        Because for the 95% of the time you are not in overload, the system is much more efficient.

        You will be losing on the pumping of the water, losing on the storring of it (Evaporation) and losing again on converting it back (it doesn't leave the turbines with 0% kinetic energy). That is major loss, you should only use lake storage as a last resort. Maybe the better option would be to install a link to an area that would not also be experiencing high winds, over hear in .au we often link between state grids, so

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by RicktheBrick (588466)
        I live in Ludington, Michigan. There is a pumped storage plant just south of here. It was the world's largest when it was built over 30 years ago. They use excess electricity at night to pump the water up and recover around two thirds of that energy during the day. One third is always wasted but it is better than wasting all of that energy. In order to run those generators at peak efficiency they must be ran at the same output 24 hours a day. They do not want to shut some of them off at night because
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      But what kind of volumes of water do you need to store? Something tells me it could be quite a bit for the highest production peaks - or to get any meaningful amount of juice from the backflow anyway -, a mere tower might not be enough. Even if it were, you'd need to install new turbines for the water and a whole bunch of other infra. Probably not very cheap. This type of storage may well prove to be useful, but it's going to take some time to figure out the economics of it, how much storage is optimal, and
    • by vtcodger (957785)

      ***Why not use the energy during these peaks to pump water up to the top of a tower, then gradually release it as required***

      That's called 'pumped storage' and the US has some capability including -- if I recall correctly -- at Grand Coulee Dam which would be near the windmills in question. However, it's not terribly efficient and requires a lot of rather expensive hardware that won't be used very often.

      The power system engineers are well aware of pumped storage and if they aren't using it, there is probab

  • by serviscope_minor (664417) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @04:54AM (#32961392) Journal

    The problem is not wind power, it is an electricity grid in poor condition. Frankly, that is going to be a problem with or without wind power.

    • by hey (83763) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @05:31AM (#32961552) Journal

      I agree. Its like a programmer saying "the program works...just don't click there"

    • by AlecC (512609) <aleccawley@gmail.com> on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @05:34AM (#32961578)

      No, it is a grid designed for slow turn on/off generators (coal, oil, nuclear) being fed with fast turn on/off generators. It is like taking a truck off-road. A truck perfectly suitable for is normal job is not fit for purpose on un-metalled road. The grid is not fit for the purpose to which it is now being put.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by noidentity (188756)

        No, it is a grid designed for slow turn on/off generators (coal, oil, nuclear) being fed with fast turn on/off generators. It is like taking a truck off-road. A truck perfectly suitable for is normal job is not fit for purpose on un-metalled road.

        So it's not like a truck that you can just dump power on, more like a system of tubes that might not be able to handle all that at once?

      • by mcvos (645701) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @05:56AM (#32961694)

        Grid maintenance also means you have to update it when requirements change. More reliance on wind energy means you need more flexibility in where your electricity is generated and how much of it is generated. Leaving your grid the way it was while you change where and how electricity is generated, is rather stupid.

        • by AlecC (512609) <aleccawley@gmail.com> on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @06:15AM (#32961784)

          Certainly. But we have a frog-in-hot-water situation here, with political complications. The grid as built can take a small amount of wind power. But as the amount of wind power increases, the limits of its adaptability are reached. And now you have the problem of who pays for the necessary upgrades. The guy who added the last windmill that exceeded the limit? All windmill owners? The Oregon grid, which needs upgrading? The California consumers who want this green power? Everybody says it is not their responsibility and the US, with its dislike of government control, does not have the mechanisms for someone to take charge and decide who pays for it in the short term, and how they are going to get paid back buy the other beneficiaries.

          The trouble is that, since this is a huge one-off, market forces don't work very well. Of course, eventually the pain caused will open a market opportunity and business will find a way to solve the problem. But without a so-called socialist supervisor authority to predict and control, business are going to wait until the pain is excruciating before suppling the demand. In the long term the market will work; in the short term the economy and people will suffer.

      • by twisteddk (201366) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @06:20AM (#32961814)

        I could probably quote myself from the comment I made about 6-12 months ago when someone posted an article about the US wanting to buy more green power. But I wont bother to search for the article, so I'll just say:

        THIS IS the problem with the currently renewable energy sources. We do not have control over their output. When they produce too little we need to augment, when they procude too much, we need to siphon the excess. The higher the percentage of renewable energy is being used, the more these extremes will vary.
        So putting out an economic incetive (like the energy credit in the article), means that societys requirements and needs will be countered by politics (however well intended) when they're told they're overperforming, because the energy shouldn't go to waste.

        The exact same thing happens here (where we can't rely on solar during the day, due to heavy clouding during wintertime where powerconsumption is highest), the windmills overproduce heavily at night, where the cost of energy can actually drop to NEGATIVE (yes, you get paid to buy power at certain times of the night on rare occasions in northern Europe). One of the ways to counter this, is actually by tailoring consumption. So if you have a smart house, and an electric car. NOW is the time your batteries will start charging. This is also the idea behind the "better place" http://www.betterplace.com/ [betterplace.com] Weather you store in a chemical or natural battery (like a lake on the other side of a dam), or you turn down other sources of power, we WILL need a way to regulate that doesn't involve cutting production of the cleanest powersources.

        I admit, there WILL be a cost to the energy infrastructure in the future (or as the article suggest, NOW). And as the energy market goes global, we're not just talking sales from state to state. But that investment should have been obvious from the initial planning of the site. If you can procude 400MW, it's no good if the infrastructure is only made to handle a third of that. That'd be like building a 1 lane freeway.

        • by Pascal Sartoretti (454385) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @07:23AM (#32962152)

          THIS IS the problem with the currently renewable energy sources. We do not have control over their output.

          No : the major source of renewable energy today is hydroelectric dams, whose output can be nearly 100% controlled.

        • And I think I could sum it up again as 6-12 months ago....

          Going green has three major, independant problems:

          • Production
          • Storage/Distribution
          • Consumption

          and we need to tackle all of them.

          And I'm sick of those people who don't see that this is a chain that depends on the weakest link. Someone develpps a higher efficiency electric car, and that lot starts to complain that it is useless without greener power production. Some other guy sets up a solar/windpark, and the same people start heckling about its uselessn

  • by MagusSlurpy (592575) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @04:54AM (#32961394) Homepage
    As in, "Sit in front of the turbines, flapping a big feather fan to generate more electricity?" Great idea!
    • You would think this strategy would be employed when the wind wasn't gusting, to give the blades the deserved respect that they deserve for their hard work in maintaining the Roman Empire...

      Oh, wait, they're not Caesar...they're giant fans.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by maxwell demon (590494)

      No, you put the fan behind, so it goes against the wind. It not only reduces the generated power, but in addition removes some of the generated power directly at the generation place, so it doesn't hit the grid. As added bonus, the article mentions that the renewable energy credits are only generated when the blades are spinning, however it doesn't tell that you may not use that power yourself (and if there's some regulation to that effect, you simply found a second company to put up the fans, and sell the

    • by ultranova (717540)

      As in, "Sit in front of the turbines, flapping a big feather fan to generate more electricity?" Great idea!

      Wouldn't an electric fan be far more effective?

  • Finally... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @05:04AM (#32961436)

    Green energy is destroying things. Let's go back to burning things just to be safe.

  • by FuckingNickName (1362625) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @05:07AM (#32961452) Journal

    Why, technically speaking, is your power grid in the CA area in such poor condition? Were there missteps in its construction or maintenance? Why isn't capacity being increased? Is it a problem of deciding responsibility for organising interstate builds, and if so why don't other states suffer the problem? Spain has this on-and-off problem of autonomous regions with lots of water not providing to areas with less water; the ("federal") government of the day can determine the outcome.

    • by AlecC (512609) <aleccawley@gmail.com> on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @05:28AM (#32961538)

      The problem is not in California, it is in Oregon. The demand is in California, but they cannot get the supply out of Oregon. It is not the case of the grid being in bad condition (though it is not in good condition), it is the case of the grid being built for fossil, nuclear, and hydroelectric power which turns on/off predictably and controllably, without major surges, now being used for wind power which surges unpredictably. Water is not a good analogy - surges in the water supply are on a matter of days or even weeks, whereas surges in the wind are a matter of. a second or so.

      Because wind power varies, it has to be backed up by another power source which is turned down and up to fill in the gaps in the wind. But most power stations take at least a few seconds for the most agile (gas turbine) to many hours (nuclear) to turn on and off. If the wind varies too fast, this cannot be done and net grid power - the sum of wind and other - varies in a dangerous manner. The solution is for the wind power not to use the highest peaks, wasting the energy that California would like but preventing damage to the grid and equipment attached to it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Hungus (585181)

        The problem is not in California, it is in Oregon. The demand is in California, but they cannot get the supply out of Oregon.

        Sounds to me like a large part of the problem is that Californians are using more than they produce. That in itself is a problem, in fact is the heart of the problem. Californians need to produce more power locally, use less or find a balance of the two.

        The same thing goes with California's other budget issue - fiscal-

        • by AlecC (512609) <aleccawley@gmail.com> on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @06:21AM (#32961822)

          I don't agree. Doing everything in your own back garden is extremely inefficient. Things should be done where they can be done most efficiently - allowing for the cost of transport. You generate wind power where the wind is, solar power where the sun is, wave power where the waves are. Then transport it to where the users are

          By your logic, California should only burn oil pumped in California. In fact, why allow a whole state to share - why not require SF to used only oil pumped in SF.

          And certainly California should not import water in the way it does. Which would lead to most of Southern California being abandoned - it survives only on water imported from the north.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by mad_ian (28771)

            I think there are limits to how much of a given resource one group of people should be importing.

            There are too many people in SoCal to be able to provide them enough water. The problem isn't too little water, it's too many people. Some of them need to leave, and go where there is more water. People have been doing this for thousands of years. Our technology does not eliminate this process, only allows it to happen less often.

          • by hedwards (940851) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @09:39AM (#32963284)
            That may be so, but up here in WA we're having to deal with the consequences of the short sightedness and greed of Californians. We could reduce the number of dams we have or allow more water to spill over them here to better serve our commercial fishing industry if we weren't needing to sell that capacity to Californians. Likewise, why should people in Oregon have to lose ground for other purposes so that Californians don't have to put up their own solar arrays?

            Californians have been doing this sort of thing for some time, and while we like the money, it really would be better if they stopped behaving like they have the right to export their externalities when folks up here are actually trying to do something about ours.
      • If you can't handle surges, what happens when the superbowl starts? A large surge on the demand side would then be catastrophic, causing at least a blackout in some parts.

        Anyway, I tihnk that there are plenty of places in the world where they have more wind power than in Oregon... so all they have to do is copy someone else's idea.

        Also, Oregon is in the Rockies, isn't it? The must be some hydroelectric dams there?

      • by Skapare (16644)

        Electricity is electricity. It doesn't matter where it came from ... except that certain sources have their ups and downs. Specifically, the grid isn't design for such peak variations.

        If I need X to Y megawatts, normally I'd have to make the transmission lines handle to the peak of Y, under the economics of the variation between X and Y. But if there are separate transmission lines between 2 different sources, and at least one of those sources has variable output that can go from zero to (near) Y, then t

      • by SharpFang (651121)

        Water is good analogy as flood water can become a problem in matter of a hour or two. Still, you can store water using a dam, so you can distribute transforming it into electricity over a longer period of time. You can't store wind like that.

  • I thought due to the sporadic nature of renewables that few of them are plugged directly into the power grid and instead the energy is used to, for example, pump water from a lower storage tank/lake into a higher one? That way they know exactly how much power will be generated by the release of the water and it is entirely predictable.

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      I thought due to the sporadic nature of renewables that few of them are plugged directly into the power grid and instead the energy is used to, for example, pump water from a lower storage tank/lake into a higher one? That way they know exactly how much power will be generated by the release of the water and it is entirely predictable.

      One thing that you won't be able to predict is when the tank/lake will be so full you can't pump in it any more.
      I guess I'm trying to say that: what is unpredictable will stay unpredictable (no matter how many buffers you use to cushion against values you cannot handle).

      • by Shihar (153932) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @06:03AM (#32961732)

        There is a pretty large difference between the a power surge over a few seconds, and slowly, over the course of months, building up a supply of water in a reservoir. Dealing with a power surge over a few seconds is very hard. Dealing with a reservoir that builds up near to full is pretty freaking easy... just turn off some other power sources and slowly and predictably drain the reservoir. Unpredictability isn't the issue, rapid unpredictability is.

        The problem of course is that the more you buffer something like wind energy, the less efficient (and thus more costly) it becomes. Dumping water into a reservoir will pretty much solve your energy surge problems, but it will make your output and cost crap. I bet the solution is probably more technological. Cleaning up a signal that fluctuates wildly is pretty old hat for signal folks, it just needs some scale up.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by tagno25 (1518033)

        One thing that you won't be able to predict is when the tank/lake will be so full you can't pump in it any more. I guess I'm trying to say that: what is unpredictable will stay unpredictable (no matter how many buffers you use to cushion against values you cannot handle).

        How is that unpredictable? You should always know the current water level. If you know the mean and maximum pump rates as well, then you can set a computer to fan the blades on the windmills, in turn generating less electricity, when you get near the limit. If you reach the maximum very often you should think about adding a second reservoir.

      • by xaxa (988988)

        One thing that you won't be able to predict is when the tank/lake will be so full you can't pump in it any more.

        If the lake is full and for some reason you still need to run the pumps (or more likely, it starts raining) you just let the lake overflow (or let water out bypassing the turbines). Presumably there's a river.

        Lakes are massive anyway, with capacities measured in km, I would think they take long enough to fill that variations in the wind are easily averaged out.

  • by Framboise (521772) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @05:22AM (#32961512)

    McPhy claims to be able to store energy at 98% efficiency with hydrogen in solid containers,
    which are precisely aimed for solving such problems.

    http://www.mcphy.com/en/products/iso-containers.php [mcphy.com]

    If I were investor I would look more closely to such technological advances.

    • by Smidge204 (605297) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @08:30AM (#32962610) Journal

      The site you link claims 97%, not 98%.

      And that's just storage. In practice, you get 70% efficiency for making the hydrogen from water and around 50% from a fuel cell turning it back into electricity. Inverter losses are typically another 2-3% (98% efficiency) on both ends.

      0.98 * 0.70 * 0.97 * 0.50 * 0.98 = 22.6% overall.

      Pumped water storage is between 70% to 85% efficient overall.
      =Smidge=

  • by amorsen (7485) <benny+slashdot@amorsen.dk> on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @05:30AM (#32961548)

    So the wind turbines had to reduce production for a few hours. Is it really worth doing massive build-outs to fix that? It's sad to see energy go to waste, but on the other hand you can go outside and watch all the energy going to waste because there isn't a wind turbine to catch it in the first place!

    As long we're wasting less than 10% of power (and right now we're below 1% at least in wind-farm-filled Denmark) I don't see the problem. I bet planned and unplanned maintenance accounts for several percent anyway.

    • by Rogerborg (306625)

      Pfft, do you really believe that 1% figure? Say, how much has fossil fuel use dropped in Denmark then? Speak up, I can't hear you... [crickets]

      The potential generation figures for wind (and solar) are almost entirely fictional. We have to keep fossil and nuke plants hot anyway to deal with power dips and to provide steady phase.

      It's not a huge problem, granted, since the grid monkeys actually balancing the load and phase know very well that the headlines and the big visible turbines are just a sop t

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by amorsen (7485)

        Modern wind turbines don't run in phase with the grid, they convert with power electronics. This means that they are a great stabilizing factor on the grid in the short term, especially if the load needs power factor correction.

        Older wind turbines were indeed troublesome for the grid because it is difficult to keep something powered by the wind rotating at a completely steady speed. Luckily this is no longer necessary.

        Anyway, two coal fired blocks are supposed to be closed in Denmark this year according to

    • by Ascylon (1849890) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @06:43AM (#32961970)

      Wind power is inherently unreliable and completely unfeasible as a large-scale power-generation method. I found the following an interesting read:

      Hugh Sharman, – Why Wind Power ‘Works’ in Denmark
      http://www.incoteco.com/upload/CIEN.158.2.66.pdf [incoteco.com]

      The gist of it is that Denmark exports almost all of the wind energy they generate to neighbouring countries, because most of the time the power generated is in excess of the demand. Granted, that paper is several years old, but it still demonstrates the randomness of wind-based energy-generation pretty well.

      Wind can never be used for base load energy generation without some kind of (expensive and impractical) energy-storing gimmicks, so instead of that how about just building a few comparatively cheap nuclear reactors and being set for decades? Perhaps at that point wind energy will be more feasible, but until then throwing money into implementing inferior energy-generation methods seems kind of silly.

      • by Zumbs (1241138)
        On the other hand, nuclear and fossil fueled power is only feasible today because vast amounts of money have been thrown at them. It is not surprising that other energy sources will also require large investments to become as competitive and convenient as the currently used and very mature energy sources.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Halo1 (136547)

        The gist of it is that Denmark exports almost all of the wind energy they generate to neighbouring countries, because most of the time the power generated is in excess of the demand.

        Denmark is a very small country with lots of wind. I'd guess that they are doing this on purpose, simply producing power as an export product (probably a bit like Oregon in this story).

        In Belgium, currently about 55% of our electricity is generated by nuclear plants. The problem? About 55% of the time (from 21h-6h on weekdays and all day on weekends), the power generated is in excess of demand and simply reducing the output of nuclear plants at night and on weekends is apparently not economically feasible (

  • Hey, if it avoids synchronous bandwidth surges for TCP/IP, it's worth a try for power transmission.
  • Reversed polarity? Rerouted power through the main deflector dish? huh? Huh?? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4pbou_r7ODs&feature=related [youtube.com]

  • store as Hydrogen (Score:5, Interesting)

    by xirtam_work (560625) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @05:54AM (#32961684)

    I've suggested this elsewhere for other wind farms. How about having a hydrogen electrolysis plant nearby where water can be turned into Hydrogen that can be turned back into electricity during non-peak wind (tidal, or whatever) periods. Hydrogen can be burnt turning it back into water easily and produces heat that can be turned into electricity cheaply and easily. The most expensive part of the whole unit would be the hydrogen storage. This can safely be placed underground to avoid leaks and explosions if required.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by hipp5 (1635263)

      I've suggested this elsewhere for other wind farms. How about having a hydrogen electrolysis plant nearby where water can be turned into Hydrogen that can be turned back into electricity during non-peak wind (tidal, or whatever) periods. Hydrogen can be burnt turning it back into water easily and produces heat that can be turned into electricity cheaply and easily. The most expensive part of the whole unit would be the hydrogen storage. This can safely be placed underground to avoid leaks and explosions if required.

      They are doing this in some locations. I know that this is what's happening for British Columbia's first wind farm. However, the incentive is not grid stability, but power lines that are too far away. It's cheaper to truck hydrogen than it is to extend the power grid to the farm.

    • hydrogen is a joke (Score:5, Informative)

      by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @07:05AM (#32962058) Homepage Journal

      people please stop talking about hydrogen

      it wastes too much energy in electrolysis and then burning. plus its a nightmare to store and handle. there's far more efficient energy storage mediums that are far easier to manage

      i wish people would just forget about hydrogen, but it seems to have entered the public conscience and will be a long time in banishing from consideration. hydrogen is not a serious green energy contender, and never will be

      its too wasteful to convert to, and then convert back from, and too messy to handle. please understand these simple obvious facts that make hydrogen a complete waste of your time

  • by davaguco (771514) * on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @06:23AM (#32961842) Homepage
    It can be done. Just check how Spain manages to cope with a 41% wind energy electricity production: https://demanda.ree.es/demanda.html [demanda.ree.es] Check January 14th, 2010 (January = Enero).
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by John Hasler (414242)

      Sure, in a country less than 1000Km in extent and with much of the population right in the center. It's farther from Oregon to Southern California than it is from one corner of Spain to another.

  • In the not-so-distant future, we may see a large number of electric vehicles on the road, with increasing policy support. The batteries in these vehicles could provide a very good distributed storage solution through an intelligent charging infrastructure.

    One of the biggest arguments against wind power has been intermittency and the inability to tailor demand to supply volatility. An on-site storage can provide stability of output from the wind farm to the grid, but the options are either too ecologically

  • by Skapare (16644) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @07:41AM (#32962268) Homepage

    ... tidal. Build a dam across the entrance of the SF bay and capture the power from the tidal flow going in and out every day. Oh, and you could build a roadway across the top of it and get rid of that ugly bridge right there.

  • by 1sockchuck (826398) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @09:15AM (#32963044) Homepage
    There are several ways that variable wind generation loads can present challenges. Texas, which has a large concentration of wind generation facilities, experienced an incident in early 2008 [reuters.com] in which a sudden dropoff in wind triggered a grid emergency. A cold front came through, generation dipped, and utilities had to implement power shaving strategies, primarily reducing service to large customers who trade lower rates by being "interruptible."
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by s122604 (1018036)
      Texas also produces more wind power than California, and far more than they did when the 2008 incident occurred,
      That gap is only stated to grow
      Reason, the power of the kind of groups that will block power lines, if not the wind farms themselves, is MUCH smaller in Texas...
  • by grizdog (1224414) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @10:18AM (#32963834) Homepage

    Lots of Californians want to pay extra for green power, but do they really care who gets which power, as long as the green power is generated and used? I would guess that the vast majority of them would be fine with paying more to have green power generated and used elsewhere, but that isn't an option - when you opt into a green power program, it says you are getting that power.

    The northwest already has plenty of hydropower that can be interrupted briefly while the reservoirs are allowed to fill, or at least not deplete as quickly. The wind power could be diverted to the aluminum potlines and other big users - there is still a grid issue, but much smaller than getting those big surges down to California.

    A lot of this could be solved administratively, if the parties involved really wanted to solve it

  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @12:04PM (#32965684) Homepage

    It's a big problem. Grid operators are concerned about "dispatch ramp rate", the rate at which power sources can be ordered to increase or decrease output. Ramp rate from idle to full power is minutes for gas turbines, tens of minutes for hydro plants, and hours for coal plants.

    Live data on this is available. Here's PJM's dashboard [pjm.com], with the details of the power grid in the northeastern United States. Once the dashboard (a Flash program) comes up, pick one of the graph panes, and use the drop-down menu at the upper left of the window to select "Wind Power". At the lower right of the pane, use that drop-down menu to select "All Data". The green line is total, actual wind power output for the entire PJM control area. Note that today's low is about 80MW, and today's high is about 925MW. That's how variable wind power is; over a 10:1 range in a single day. That's not just one wind farm. That's the entire northeastern US. It's not a big deal for PJM, though; their peak load today is about 130,000MW. Wind power is not yet a significant fraction of their capacity.

    Wind power is not "dispatchable"; the control center can't call for more output. Current thinking is that power grids can tolerate maybe 20% to 30% wind power, maximum. There will be periods of low wind, even over very large geographical areas. Huge reserves of "dispatchable" power are needed to back up the wind turbines. Typically, that comes from natural gas fueled turbines. The backup power isn't needed very often, so the capital cost of the equipment per kilowatt hour produced is high.

  • Flywheel storage? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kheldan (1460303) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @12:11PM (#32965804) Journal
    Likely no one will even see this comment (there are over 300 already), but: Would it make any sense to build flywheels for energy storage on-site at wind farms, to smooth the output as well as not waste excess power generated?
  • by introp (980163) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @12:41PM (#32966400)

    As someone who works in the solar and wind controls business, let me state: this is not a surprise or really even a problem. People who install big wind and solar systems understand, because of the payback horizon of such installations, the limitations of the local distribution system. It is completely normal for big turbines to have to feather/furl/divert themselves during strong wind. The owners and installers design for this. It's factored into the payback time of the project!

    The problem here is the sensationalist reporting. Yes, we need better electricity distribution systems for distributed generation, but we in the industry know that. We've known it for years. The guys who financed and installed the system at Columbia River Gorge almost certainly knew it.

    So, yes, pump money into building bigger lines in the right places, but that's something we've been doing for more than fifty years. Generation locations are rarely at consumption locations, after all, and that was true for coal, natural gas, etc., just as it is for wind, hydro, and solar. The only problem here is that our 1990's generation locations aren't where tomorrow's generation locations are.

  • by sherriw (794536) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @01:15PM (#32966940)

    National Geographic Magazine did a recent article on the US power grid. Apparently it is way older and sensitive to fluctuations than I thought. It's really not set up currently to handle the erratic nature of 'green' power.

    http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2010/07/power-grid/achenbach-text [nationalgeographic.com]

  • by Billy the Mountain (225541) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @01:57PM (#32967680) Journal

    I think another solution to using excess capacity is to produce energy intensive products. For example ammonia is like the second or third most produced chemical because the fertilizer industry buys mass quantities of it. You could think of ammonia as a nifty way of storing hydrogen because it's very easy to compress it into a liquid. For a windmill farm you would probably want to start by eletrolyzing water into O2 & H2. Then take the H2 and Air and produce your ammonia. A windmill farm might build a small mostly automated ammonia plant on site that can be switched on when the wind is blowing hard and be able to store the product for later transportation by truck.

    BTM

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