Two core issues that make relying on wind energy a challenge are transmission and storage. Wind generation is inherently variable. Some days are windy, but not every day. Wind can blow more strongly at night, when demand for electricity is relatively low. Wind generation facilities are often on the fringes of the electric grid. The recent Department of Energy report endorsing the notion that wind could provide 20% of the country’s electric generation by 2030 cites transmission as a chief, if not the chief, impediment. Getting wind energy from the source to electric outlets, when demand is high, can vex the most ardent supporters of wind.
Two recent press reports offer some insight into where we are now.
NYRI transmission project
First is an opinion piece in UticaOD.com offered by the president of the New York Regional Interconnect, Inc. or NYRI. In May 2006, the NYRI proposed a project to the New York Public Service Commission (NYPSC) to construct and maintain a 190-mile, 1200 megawatt electrical transmission line from upstate (Marcy) to downstate (New Windsor). Information on PSC Case No. 06-T-0650 may be found here.
Without commenting on the merits of this proposal, it is nevertheless reasonably accepted that New York’s electricity infrastucture is aging and potentially in danger of not being able to keep up with projected demand over the long term, especially assuming that demand continues to increase as expected. Downstate, home to the state’s population centers, drives demand. As renewables such as wind (largely produced upstate) are expected to contribute increasingly to the generation mix, it is reasonable to ask “how are we going to make this happen?” The PSC, at least initially, will determine whether the NYRI will be a part of the answer.
Wind energy storage
Another potential partial solution may be storage. The ability to store energy generated during times of low need to be used during high demand periods is of course desirable, if not essential. Renewable Energy World has an interesting summary update on the status of industrial scale storage. As the article indicates:
The benefits of storage are significant, especially in integrating distributed generation. Storage protects against mistakes in forecasting, removes barriers in connecting renewable sources to a variety of grids, shifts demand peaks by storing off-peak energy to sell back to the grid during peak times, provides frequency regulation and deters expensive grid upgrades.
The article references a meeting of the Electricity Storage Association. Learn everything you’d like to about the Electricity Storage Association here.