Library filed under Technology from Wyoming
A proposal to export twice as much Wyoming wind power to Los Angeles as the amount of electricity generated by the Hoover Dam includes an engineering feat even more massive than that famous structure: Four chambers, each approaching the size of the Empire State Building, would be carved from an underground salt deposit to hold huge volumes of compressed air.
The use of windmills to offset home power costs - and perhaps even spin the meter backward - has produced mixed results in La Plata County. "I'm disappointed in the production I'm getting," said Brad Blake, who installed a windmill 18 months ago on Florida Mesa. "It hasn't produced the power I expected."
"The general consensus is we will be living in a carbon-constrained world, so it's best to prepare for it," said Rob Hurless, Freudenthal's energy adviser. "If you want to provide power to the California market, there's a clear standard there." Until there's a quantum leap forward in carbon capture for pulverized coal-fired power plants, America's existing fleet seems destined for a gradual retirement. Just how gradually the plants come off line will depend on how federal climate legislation is crafted.
A company plans to build a $420 million wind farm with 133 turbines in southwest Campbell County. San Ramon, Calif.-based Third Planet Windpower is eyeing 14,000 acres for the project on both sides of Wyoming Highway 50 near the Johnson County line. The company has begun talking to local landowners about leasing land.
Kevin Luke of Buford-based Z-4 Energy Systems wants to develop a way to save wind energy for when the wind's not blowing. He's working on a commercialization plan for wind-powered water pumping, incorporating compressed air storage. Luke points out that wind is variable and energy storage is needed to provide controlled, consistent water pumping. He seeks to use air compressors, similar to those found commercially, powered by a wind turbine rotor. The driving force behind his efforts is that the wind blows at variable speeds and when there is not enough wind to turn the turbine, the stored air can continue to be used to pump the well. Currently, wind electric and solar powered systems use lead acid batteries for storage, which don't perform well in the cold weather and have a short lifespan.
Industry leaders believe wind could fill up to 20 percent of generation portfolio. But even wind proponents warn against the notion that it can solve the nation's energy and greenhouse gas concerns. "Wind is a great technology ... But it's not a panacea." There's fossil fuel consumption in the maintenance of wind farms. Many prime wind resources are located far from areas where renewable energy is in demand. Even here at the Foote Creek wind facility, where high gusts wreak havoc on turbines, lightning strikes are equally troublesome. "You've got to look at it for what it is," said Borrows.
Greenblatt noted that while wind power could produce impressive amounts of peak energy during strong gusts, the biggest problem was wind power’s intermittency. The problem could be addressed by a process called compressed air energy storage, where excess energy could be used to pump compressed air into underground storage facilities that could include abandoned mines. When the wind was not blowing, he said, the compressed air could be tapped and combined with the burning of natural gas to create high-efficiency electrical generators approximating the efficiency levels of coal-fueled power plants.
The new turbines are more efficient and less costly than propeller-driven machines and earlier versions of TMA's own mills, officials say.