Energy Storage-Winds of Change

General Electric’s new wind turbine, with its energy storage capability, could create a tipping point for the wind power industry.
Published: Wed 19 Mar 2014

General Electric has announced that its smarter and more powerful wind turbine comes with optional energy storage.

The newest 2.75-120 wind turbine provides five percent more annual energy production than its 2.5-120 model. The new model is available with various tower technologies, ranging between 85-139 meters. It is available on a steel, hybrid or space frame tower which helps to tailor the wind turbine for site conditions and bring wind power to new locations.

The short-term or long-term energy will make wind power more predictable, flexible and fast responding through battery software applications. Short-term energy storage is integrated at the turbine level and long-term storage is centralized for the wind farm.

Forty-four of the latest model will be supplied to eight new German wind farms.

Tipping point for wind power

This latest development could be a tipping point for wind power since one of the barriers holding back broader adoption of wind energy is the impact it will have on electric power grids.

As a variable resource, wind energy acts differently than the conventional generation sources managed by most grid operators. Wind energy production is also subject to rapid and unpredictable fluctuations in output. This can have a major impact on the stability of power grids, creating control problems for grid operators and reliability issues for customers.

As a result, many electric utilities and transmission system operators have developed stringent grid-interconnection requirements to mitigate the impact that wind energy resources can have on the power grid. If a wind farm does not meet interconnection requirements, it faces mandated production curtailments, limiting plant productivity and profitability.

Wind power storage going solo

Natural gas is often seen as a complementary resource-when paired with wind energy, it can provide a reliable power supply. However, natural gas generation creates carbon emissions and is also subject to significant cost fluctuations as the price of natural gas rises and falls due to shifts in global demand as well as supply availability.

Concerns about future regulations on hydraulic fracturing technology (or “fracking”), for instance, have raised questions about the future price and availability of natural gas. For these reasons, researchers are looking for other solutions to solve the variability issue associated with wind energy.

An emerging technology, however, holds great potential to accelerate the adoption of wind energy resources, without the drawbacks of natural gas.

Energy storage can help address the intermittency issues of wind energy and make wind generation perform more like conventional generating plants. In addition to this, energy storage can also help wind-plant operators create new revenue streams and maximize plant profitability.