By Published On: November 30, 2007

Grouping wind projects around long-range transmission lines could provide reliable base load electricity economically, according to a study by two Stanford University professors. The report was published in the November issue of the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology. The examination shows that by linking wind farms in scattered areas to a single transmission line the turbines could supply between 32 percent and 47 percent of their cumulative output in steady base load power. “This study implies that, if interconnected wind is used on a large-scale, a third or more of its energy can be used for reliable electric power,” said Cristina Archer, Stanford University civil and environmental engineering professor and coauthor of the report. “The remaining intermittent portion can be used for transportation, allowing wind to solve energy, climate, and air pollution problems simultaneously.” The intermittent portion of the power, for instance, could be used to charge electric vehicles or to make hydrogen to run fuel-cell-powered cars. The study authors compared linking multiple wind facilities to having numerous hamsters in separate cages with treadmills that make electricity. With enough hamsters, even though some would be loafing, the chances are high that at least some would be on their treadmills. The researchers examined linking 19 wind farms scattered across the states of Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico to a transmission line that would run to California. Each project would need a relatively short line connecting to the main line to California, lowering the cost of overall transmission compared to running separate lines into the state. The two researchers then examined wind data to see how much power the farms would produce and when they would make it. This revealed that the wind farms would produce stable base load power. Next, they found that reliable base load energy could be achieved with wind installations at as few as 10 of the 19 locations. As a result of the finding, Archer urged the U.S. to develop a master plan for organizing and locating wind farms and transmission lines. Such a plan, she said, not only would provide reliable base load power, but lower the cost of wind power by minimizing transmission costs. The study is available at Archer coauthored it with Mark Jacobson, also a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford.

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