Prof: Use wind turbines as flywheels to smooth output
A team of Wisconsin-based academic engineers have come up with a novel idea for smoothing out wind turbines' erratic power output in gusty conditions. In essence, the Milwaukee team's idea is to use the turbine itself as a giant flywheel to siphon off energy spikes and so offer more consistent output.
The research was led by assistant professor Adel Nasiri of the Power Electronics and Motor Drives Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The paper, Wind power smoothing using rotor inertia aimed at reducing grid susceptibility, is published in the International Journal of Power Electronics.
According to the Milwaukee boffins, "the output power of wind turbines fluctuates. These power fluctuations make the wind power undispatchable. Furthermore, they can cause frequency deviations and power outage particularly when wind power penetration is significant [that is, when there is a large amount of wind power on the grid]".
Thus, according to the engineers, any power grid intending to use large amounts of wind normally needs to use expensive power storage units and/or backup generation to smooth out short-term spikes and troughs in output. But they believe that a useful amount of this can be avoided, by letting the turbine spin faster during gusts - so storing energy in the same way as a rotating flywheel - and only extracting as much power as the grid would like to have. Then, should a lull follow, the energy stored in the fast-spinning windmill can be extracted to bridge the gap.
It seems unlikely that this technique would be able to cope with the days-long calms which some critics of wind power have pointed out as the main weakness of the idea. The potential of wind turbines to fail catastrophically when spun too fast might also be a factor of concern. Nonetheless, the idea of dual-purposing the actual generating turbine itself as a storage flywheel is certainly an elegant one.
Full details of the research are available here. ®
Pretty Good - but.....
Given that UK electrons are four times more expensive than French electrons and more than twice as expensive as German electrons - you'd think that they'd have a bit of cash spare and just install some pilot plants to see how well it works...
As I understand it flywheel storage has been around for a few years (French telephone giant Alcatel I believe uses it for exchange standby) and, as I understand it works pretty well and is dirt cheap to implement with bugger all maintenace.
UK utilities aren't keen to open the doors to "devolved power" as it opens Pandora's Box as far as distributed generation goes. Heavens above !! - can't have people generating their own power and heating their houses with the waste heat.....
UK utilities are by and large, delinquent bureaucracies - whose prime raison d'etre has SFA to do with supplying the population with reasonably priced electrons.
Amusing how all these experts are so eager to dismiss the proposed technology and take the opportunity to piss on their favourite target, academics in this case. How dare anyone think different? You'd all be stoning heretics or ridiculing heliocentrism had you been born a few centuries ago. OTOH the article set you up for it. Glad the AC put the record straight.
Re: Industry engineers
If everything that academia thought of worked perfectly straight away, there would be no industrial engineers.
Maybe we should leave theory and research to industrial engineers. How many A-frames and how much 4by6 would it take to put a man on the moon?