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  • [ September 23, 2013 ]
  • Stanford researchers find inefficiency in using wind for grid-storage

For the nation to up its game in renewable energy, it must create a stable, reliable grid. Developing these “grid-connected” technologies has been a key focus for the Department of Energy (DOE) for several years. However, a study recently completed by researchers at Stanford University comparing the “energetic costs” between solar and wind energy, concluded that while it is inefficient to run wind turbines to generate excess electricity for grid-storage, solar energy is much more compatible for this purpose. “Energetic costs” are the amount of energy and greenhouse gas emissions used to manufacture each technology – if the battery’s energetic cost is too high, its negative environmental effects could negate the benefits.

EROIgrid values as a function of storage or curtailment fraction, f, and EES technology paired with solar PV (top panel) and wind (bottom panel). Note x-axis is shared, but y-axis scale for wind is 10 greater than the y-axis for PV; Graphs courtesy of Energy & Environmental Science

Charles Barnhart, lead author of the study, compared it to spending $100 on a safe for a $10 watch: “It’s not sensible to build energetically expensive batteries for an energetically cheap resource like wind, but it does make sense for photovoltaic systems, which require lots of energy to produce.” Co-author, Michael Dale, said a wind farm’s “energetic cost of curtailment is much lower than it is for batteries,” suggesting it would be more efficient to shut down the wind turbine than to store the surplus electricity.

However, Brad Roberts, executive director of the Electricity Storage Association, says there are other solutions. For example, wind producers in Texas pay up to $30 per megawatt-hour for a municipality or another power plant to take the energy. Mr. Roberts also noted batteries would provide a “fast resource” to regulate energy frequency on the grid, as well as provide “intertia” to stabilize it when it has irregularities.

According to the study, if battery storage could improve its cycle life by two to 20 times the current cycle (from 700-6000 cycles to 10,000-18,000 cycles), the technology could be a viable option for wind energy.

Sources:
Batteries make sense for solar but not wind power — study, E&E News
Study: Battery Energy Storage Benefits Solar, Not Wind, Clean Technica

 

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