Proposed wind power grid to make wind power more reliable

April 5, 2010
Researchers analyzed hypothetical power output from five-megawatt offshore turbines similar to the one shown here off the coast of Belgium. Credit: Hans Hillewaert

The energy needs of the entire human population could potentially be met by converting wind energy to electricity by means of wind turbines. While offshore wind power resources are abundant, wind turbines are currently unable to provide steady power due to natural fluctuations in wind direction and strength. However, offshore wind power output can be made more consistent by choosing project development locations that take advantage of regional weather patterns and by connecting wind power generators with a shared power line, according to a paper by researchers from the University of Delaware and Stony Brook University that is published in the April 5 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Making wind-generated electricity more steady will enable to become a much larger fraction of our electric sources," said the paper's lead author Willett Kempton, UD professor of marine policy in UD's College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment and director of its Center for Carbon-free Power Integration.

The research team — which also included UD alumnus Felipe Pimenta, UD research faculty member Dana Veron, and Brian Colle, associate professor in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University — demonstrated that thoughtful design of offshore wind power projects can minimize the impacts of local weather on power fluctuations.

The researchers analyzed five years of wind observations from 11 monitoring stations along the U.S. East Coast from Florida to Maine. Based on wind speeds at each location, they estimated electrical power output from a hypothetical five-megawatt offshore turbine. After analyzing the patterns of wind energy among the stations along the coast, the team explored the seasonal effects on power output.

"Our analysis shows that when transmission systems will carry power from renewable sources, such as wind, they should be designed to consider large-scale meteorology, including the prevailing movement of high- and low-pressure systems," said Dr. Kempton.

Dr. Colle explained the ideal configuration. "A north-south transmission geometry fits nicely with the storm track that shifts northward or southward along the U.S. East Coast on a weekly or seasonal time scale," he said. "Because then at any one time a high or low pressure system is likely to be producing wind (and thus power) somewhere along the coast."

The researchers found that each hypothetical power generation site exhibited the expected ups and downs, but when they simulated a power line connecting them, the overall power output was smoothed so that maximum or minimum output was rare. In the particular five-year period studied, the power output of the simulated grid never stopped completely.

No are presently located in U.S. waters, although projects have been proposed off the coasts of several Atlantic states. This research could prove useful as project sites are selected and developed.

Reducing the severity of wind power fluctuations would allow sufficient time for power suppliers to ramp up or down power production from other energy sources as needed. Solutions that reduce power fluctuations also are important if wind is to displace significant amounts of carbon-emitting energy sources, the researchers said.

Explore further: Methods for regulating wind power's variability under development by electrical engineer

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antialias
not rated yet Apr 05, 2010
This is a good first step. However, for alternative energy to be viable you need to be able to cover base load needs reliably.

It would be interesting to see how much 'excess' wind power generation capability must be installed in order to guarantee this. but seeing that off-shore space is practically limitless that shouldn't be too much of a problem (except for the cost - which should go down with mass production).

I'm thinking that simply distributing the generated power north/south is not enough. The overall fluctuations must also be dampened by means of storing excess production (either via pressurized air or by generating hydrogen or thorugh some other means of storing power for longer periods).
deladvo
1 / 5 (1) Apr 05, 2010
Has an analysis of "wind pattern change caused by global temperature change" been done?
jwalkeriii
not rated yet Apr 05, 2010
I have to wonder why one would use wind turbines at all, you can just put out hundreds of low profile wobble boards. I’m mean last time I checked ocean goes up and down 100% of the time virtually everywhere there is wind, so why not put these big circular boards with weight hanging below center such that every wave tilts the board enough to turn a generator. Add some flywheel mojo and you have what I would think would be power generated 100% of the time with only a few moving parts.
bottomlesssoul
not rated yet Apr 06, 2010
1 5MW tower would replace the fossil fuel use of about 500 Americans (don't forget cement, steel production, transportation, food production etc.) Each tower takes about 1 hector of surface. There are 7 billion people who want that same standard of life.

I would be very surprised if it met more than 5-10% of human needs in 50 years.
Sanescience
not rated yet Apr 06, 2010
Every time I drive by a big wind farm that was installed not two years ago, less than half of them are actually working now. Talk of where to put them is premature, they need to become vastly more reliable before they can effectively compete in the energy market.

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