Public utilities in the state of Iowa, helped by wind power consultant Tom Wind, may have found a way to store wind's intermittent energy for when it is needed most and is valued highest. Wind says he and others have engineered a hybrid wind and gas turbine system that can compress air during the night, store it in an underground aquifer and combine it with natural gas in a turbine to produce electricity during peak hours. This is not a pie in the sky idea, Wind says. An aquifer has been located 1200 feet below ground in north central Iowa, $700,000 has been raised for feasibility studies and utilities are lining up to participate. The project, says Wind, could be up and running in 2007.
Initially, the hybrid generator will combine 100 MW of wind energy with air and natural gas and use electric generators that are similar to combustion turbines, but use one-third to a half less natural gas. Eventually, Wind says, the project could "green up" by adding more wind capacity and it may add a biomass component if the price of natural gas rises above $7.50/million cubic feet.
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