The trouble with wind is that it's a bit like Adam Sandler's career. Sometimes it blows, and sometimes it doesn't.
That's just fine if all you want to do is fly a kite, but if you're an electrical utility seeking a steady supply of carbon-free juice for millions of homes and businesses, the resource needs a Plan B.
For one Canadian company, that plan B is “battery.”
If the deal goes through as expected, next year Richmond, B.C.-based VRB Power Systems will install an enormous “flow battery ” in a wind farm at Donegal, Ireland.
When the North Atlantic is truly honkin', turbines will feed a steady 32 megawatts of juice into the island's grid while simultaneously charging VRB's battery.
The battery itself will be large enough to need its own warehouse. Picture a series of enormous plastic tanks containing electrolyte solution. Power will be stored in the bank and later released to the grid via a central “cell stack,” about the size of a large commerical refrigerator.
When fickle air currents abruptly die or shift and the Donegal turbine blades slow, VRB's two-megawatt-hour storage system will seamlessly kick in to pick up the slack, “filling in” the power hiccups, and turning a stop-and-go proposition into a resource that the company calls 95 percent constant.
VRB says its batteries–which can be endlessly scaled-up in size as need arises–could also work with widely distributed solar systems such the California Solar Initiative . As part of Arnie's Million Solar Roofs initiative, the Golden State has set a goal to create 3,000 megawatts of new, solar-produced electricity by 2017.