Proponents of wind energy realize that this is a renewable, yet intermittent form of producing electricity. So, when there is peak demand on the electrical grid and the large utility wind farms can’t deliver because of the variances of the weather, what are consumers to do?
Now, I’ve talked about wind to hydrogen storage before. In Colorado, NREL and Excel Energy have teamed up to create such a system. When the demand upon the electrical grid is low, yet the wind turbines are producing an overabundance of energy, storing energy as hydrogen (via electrolysis of water) makes sense.
Then when the grid is at peak demand at the aren’t churning hard, this is when the excess hydrogen can be run through a fuel cell and the electricity can put back into the grid. This will smooth out the intermittent problem of wind energy generation.
Now, the storage issue is not new. In fact, back in 1891 Poul la Cour decided to use wind energy to electrolyze water to create hydrogen. Since this time, little has been done to advance this cause.
But, since T. Boone Pickens (and many others) want to capitalize on the “Saudi Arabia of Wind” in the Midwest and dot the landscape with wind turbines, there is a renewed interest in storing excess wind energy has hydrogen.
One of the problems with building wind farms in the Midwest is the many times the ideal locations according to the wind maps aren’t around population centers or transmission lines.
GE Global Research put out a Powerpoint through the U. S. Department of Energy website titled “Large Scale Wind Hydrogen Systems” to address this issue. Two of the recommendations for using hydrogen created by remote wind farms are to ship it via truck or ship it via pipeline to be used elsewhere.
In this case the wind farms don’t have to be tied to the grid at all, but simply produce hydrogen via electrolysis of water and the hydrogen can be distributed where it is needed, run through a fuel cell on demand to supply electricity where and when desired.
It’s a novel idea and one that requires further investigation especially if both wind and hydrogen are to be a large part of the new energy economy that is just now starting to take off.