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Compressed Air Energy Storage

compresssed-air-energy-storagePacific Gas & Electric has resorted to an older technology to make wind power more effective.  The wind can be unpredictable in terms of when and how hard it blows, and the unpredictability presents a problem for the grid.

PG&E will use the off-peak electricity produced by the turbines to run air compressors that will be used to fill underground caves or caverns left from mining.  When the wind is not blowing as hard or at peak times, the electricity will then be released to a turbine that will then create the extra electricity to meet the grid’s demand.

Another benefit is in terms of cost.  Currently, wind power is more expensive than energy produced at traditional power plants.  This is reflected in the price per kilowatt hour for the consumer hindering many people from switching to environmentally friendly energy.  The compressed air technology will make wind power less expensive and more competitive in the open market allowing more consumers to make the switch.

This is actually a twist on a old idea.  In Huntdorf, Germany, a traditional 290MW power plant will produce extra off peak electricity and store it in the form of air compression, and release it during peak times.  The Huntdorf plant has been in operation for over 25 years.

The compressed air technology has not been tested with wind turbines, but the transition should not pose and problems.


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