Yet another problem with wind power

Since wind does blow at a continuous rate, one big problem has been that one has to build double the capacity. Not just the wind farm, but also some other alternative power supply to cover periods when the wind isn't blowing. Now there are some other costs. Apparently sometimes there is too much power, I guess when the wind blows unusually hard. In those cases, now the power companies are having to get consumers to increase use of electricity when they get these sudden surges of electricity. The NY Times views this as a big positive story. I think that it just points to yet another cost.

For decades, electric companies have swung into emergency mode when demand soars on blistering hot days, appealing to households to use less power. But with the rise of wind energy, utilities in the Pacific Northwest are sometimes dealing with the opposite: moments when there is too much electricity for the grid to soak up.

So in a novel pilot project, they have recruited consumers to draw in excess electricity when that happens, storing it in a basement water heater or a space heater outfitted by the utility. The effort is rooted in some brushes with danger.

In June 2010, for example, a violent storm in the Northwest caused a simultaneous surge in wind power and in traditional hydropower, creating an oversupply that threatened to overwhelm the grid and cause a blackout.

As a result, the Bonneville Power Administration, the wholesale supplier to a broad swath of the region, turned this year to a strategy common to regions with hot summers: adjusting volunteers’ home appliances by remote control to balance supply and demand.

When excess supply threatens Bonneville’s grid, an operator in a control room hundreds of miles away will now dial up a volunteer’s water heater, raising the thermostat by 60 more degrees. Ceramic bricks in a nearby electric space heater can be warmed to hundreds of degrees. . . .

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Blogger Raven Lunatic said...

As I understand it, if the wind blows too hard, the entire windfarm has to be shut down completely (feathering the blades where possible) so as to prevent damage from them exceeding tolerances, either of the mechanical parts or of the transmission lines.

11/06/2011 1:19 AM  

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