U.S. Water News Online
MINNEAPOLIS -- A group of utilities in Iowa, Minnesota and
the Dakotas plan to spend $200 million on a project in Iowa that
would store energy generated by wind turbines.
The Iowa Stored Energy Park would essentially act as a "battery"
for wind energy, said Bob Haub, executive director of the Iowa
Association of Municipal Utilities. Wind farms in Iowa, Minnesota and
the Dakotas would ship energy over the power grid to the storage park
near Des Moines.
Xcel Energy and the federal government are experimenting with ways
to "store" wind power in the form of hydrogen, but the Iowa project
would employ a far simpler strategy that would include the following
The cavern complex would produce 268 megawatts of electricity to
be sold to Midwest utilities on the grid -- enough to turn on the
lights in 268,000 homes.
Wind parks pay for themselves when demand and electricity rates
are higher -- during weekdays and on hot summer days. But when
electricity is most needed, sometimes the wind isn't blowing.
The storage park would get around that problem by slowly releasing
pressurized air from the aquifer to turn the blades of a generator
otherwise powered by natural gas. Metered valves would control the
release of the pressurized air. Similar operations already are used
to store natural gas underground across the nation.
Kent Holst, development director of the stored energy park, said
the plan could transform the economics of wind power.
With the storage park option, the utility owners will be able to
store and produce energy at a price equivalent to 6.5 cents per
kilowatt hour, then sell the energy at peak times for 8 to 10 cents a
Similar plants already are operating in Alabama and Germany.
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