Firming the Wind

This bit of renewable energy news was buried in a subhead in Sunday’s STrib:


Juhl Wind, the little public company near Pipestone that is a 30-plus year pioneer in community-owned wind power, has agreed to buy a 1-megawatt advanced energy storage system developed by Zinc Air. Juhl plans to install the system at its recently acquired Woodstock Hills wind farm located near the company’s headquarters in Woodstock, Minn.

Zinc Air Inc., based in Kalispell, Mont, is the developer of a zinc redox flow battery designed to achieve rapid payback periods. This is a big trend in wind designed to eventually to allow a wind farm to store and shift wind power generated at night for use by utility operators.

Xcel Energy and others are experimenting with different storage systems.

“We have carefully studied the growth in storage technologies because we believe large-scale storage will unlock the full value of wind power,” said Juhl founder Dan Juhl. “If we can build a combination wind farm with storage for the cost of a new coal plant, we are confident we can deliver totally clean electricity that can compete head-to-head with the wholesale energy market today and into the future. If we can deliver a ‘dispatchable’ resource that is head-to-head competitive, wind power can grow even more rapidly.”

I am skeptical myself of this sort of large-scale energy storage set-up. I’ve seen some fuel cell systems that present themselves well, but have not yet stood the test of time (and system loads).  And yes, I do understand the differences between batteries and fuel cells, but it’s all still unproven technology.

Hopefully, Zinc Air up in Kalispell has it figured out:

Zinc Air Inc., based in Kalispell, Montana, is the developer of a Zinc Redox flow battery designed to achieve rapid payback periods while also being the greenest battery technology on the market. This competitive storage solution allows a wind farm to store and shift wind power for flexible use by utility operators.

I suppose there’s some smart money trying hard to work this out—in my part of the world, primarily in the interest of firming up periodic generation (i.e. wind power with peak production that may not meet power use peak demand). As the news story notes, NSP (Xcel) has been working on a firming study in Southwest Minnesota, and others no doubt elsewhere. I try not to be one that says “It can’t work here”, so I’ll note the note and let y’all evaluate the data for yourselves.


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2 Responses to Firming the Wind

  1. JC says:

    August Prairie Business Magazine highlighted the Xcel wind-to-batter project near Luverne, MN.

  2. Pingback: Beacon Power Pulls the Plug - JC

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