WIND ENERGY: THE NEXT GENERATION
Wind's intermittency remains a bugaboo in some minds. Nevermind that research has pretty well proven it only takes a 19-wind farm constellation over a 500 square mile region to guarantee on-going wind supply (see WIND ENERGY: HOW IT'S DOING NOW). Nevermind that the U.S. would need the kind of smart grid that can coordinate that dispersed resource even if Zeus threw Aoelus off Olympus. None of that matters – intermittency worries people.
So General Compression is going to store wind energy. General Compression describes its Dispatchable Wind as "wind energy on demand." As wind turbines turn, they do not generate electricity but instead compress air. When that compressed air is released, at times of peak energy demand on the grid, it drives generators which produce electricity. This is not necessarily the most efficient way to use wind energy. Surely some of the wind’s power is lost in translation. But nobody seems very worried about peaking wind supply.
Ricardo Inc.’s role in the development of the technology will be to prove the concept in field work. It has its work cut out. This machinery will have to work around the clock under all conditions for decades. Ricardo dubs itself the Eco-Innovation Technology Company and describes its function as "state-of-the-art low emissions/fuel-efficient powertrain technology." Its motto: "Ricardo is Fuel Economy."
In the General Compression scheme, wind turbines drive compressors to store the power. At peak demand times, the compressed air is released to turn steam turbines which generate electricity for the grid. (click to enlarge)
Ricardo Helps Develop Next-Generation Wind Energy
February 7, 2008 (PRNewswire)
General Compression, Mechanology, Ricardo Inc. (Dean Harlow, President)
General Compression is develoing a wave energy storage concept it calls Dispatchable Wind. It will use Mechanology’s Dragonfly(TM) compressor, driven by wind turbines, to store air in underground structures for dispersal at times of peak power demand. Ricardo will assist Mechanology is optimizing the Dragonfly performance.
General Compression turbine nacelles are altered to drive compressors instead of generating electricity directly to the grid. (click to enlarge)
- The General Compression/ Mechanology/Ricardo partnership aims to make equipment that will last 20 years or more.
- Ricardo Inc. had sales of $344 million in 2007.
- The first prototypes are expected to be ready by 2010.
- Installations will not be online before 2012.
- Compressed air will be stored in geologic structures, pipes or tanks.
- General Compression is based in Massachusetts.
- Ricardo has offices in the U.S., Europe and Asia and is headquartered in Van Buren Township, Michigan.
Mechanology's Dragonfly. To be tested and proven by Ricardo Inc. (click to enlarge)
- General Compression uses the tagline 'wind energy on demand' to describe the potential of its concept.
- Moderate winds are required.
- In the storage concept, wind energy compresses air into an “air reservoir” and then releases it into an “expander” on demand.
- The theory is that this storage triples a wind farm output by allowing it to send energy to the grid more or less constantly instead of only when the wind is blowing.
- What makes the “storage” concept viable is Dragonfly’s capability to compress air at very high density.
- Dispatchable Wind is optimized for 1.5 megawatt turbines. The elements in the turbine nacelle used to generate electricity are replaced with elements designed to drive air compressors.
- Ricardo’s engineering contribution will cover design optimization, material selection, performance analysis, mechanical dynamic analysis, reliability/robustness, manufacture and cost optimization.
Alternate schematic of the wind storage concept. (click to enlarge)
- Harlow, President, Ricardo: "Increasing energy efficiency has been a prime focus at Ricardo for many years…Our deep engineering experience places us in an ideal position to assist in the development of the high energy density Dragonfly(TM) compressor. General Compression's goal of making wind power available on-demand with its Dispatchable Wind system signals a major advancement in the practical application of this important renewable energy source. For Ricardo, it is yet another opportunity to apply our advanced engineering skills and technology to address global energy issues in a range of rapidly developing industrial sectors."
- General Compression: “A DWPS wind farm can be configured with 100 MW of wind turbines and a 400 MW expander, to provide peak power and compete with natural gas peaker plants - a feat wind power has never before been able to achieve."