How to Not Lose that Wind Power Feelin’

Wind power batteriesThis is exciting stuff: Xcel Energy is going to test 80-ton batteries the size of two semi-trailers to capture the power generated from its wind turbines.

The utility is testing 20 such batteries with an 11-megawatt wind farm in southwestern Minnesota. There’s a test phase set for this spring and then the batteries are expected to go online in October.

The challenge with wind power, explained an Xcel Energy representative, isn’t that it blows and stops but that the speed of the wind varies. So the system will work like this: When the wind is blowing, the spinning turbines will help charge the batteries. When the wind slows, the batteries will help even out the flow of electricity to the grid. The batteries discharge one megawatt of power, which is enough energy to power about 1,000 homes. The Japanese-made batteries have a life expectancy of 15 years.

This is the first time a utility has used batteries in conjunction with a wind farm to help with peak power demands. By 2020, Xcel Energy is required by Minnesota to get 30 percent of its energy from renewable sources.

St. Paul Pioneer

  1. Bobby B.

    That is cool, but I know that the production of batteries requires strip mining for nickel, zinc, lead & sometimes lithium; energy intensive manufacturing processes for making the separators & housings; and the inclusion of toxic, corrosive acids to facilitate the electron exchanges inside them. Also, isn’t the disposal and recycling of batteries already a problem? Don’t get me wrong, I like batteries a lot as they make life so much more livable. However, I have never considered them particularly green and don’t recall that the greens ever held them in very high esteem. So, why do you place them on a pedestal now? Is it simply because someone plans to marry them to today’s most favored alternative energy source (wind power)? You know, it is still just a battery doing what a battery does.

  2. Mike D.

    Car batteries, and solar-appropriate batteries can be recycled. The infrastructure is there and reputable companies are glad to take them back. About 97% of car batteries are recycled through the mechanic or the store where new ones are purchased (when was the last time anyone “chucked” one?). If these batteries are of the same style and have the same components, they too may be recyclable. It’s the alkaline “throw-away” batteries (AAA, AA, C, D, 9-volt) which are the real problem today. They are recyclable but most people don’t realize they shouldn’t be tossing them out with the trash. Switching to rechargeable batteries helps with this though, and saves money over the long run.

  3. Bobby B.

    Yes, batteries can be recycled, but come on. Don’t give up that easy. You guys know that batteries are made of components that you greens have been wanting to ban for decades: heavy metals, toxic chemicals, and plastic. Are you really willing to roll over and praise batteries now, simply because someone wants to wire them to a windmill? Don’t abandon the bigger cause. Keep up the good fight. Wind power should stand alone without the impurities introduced by combining it with existing, well-proven technologies.

    Please note really thick sarcasm. I was bored and felt like having a laugh.

  4. Jim Holm

    Inexpensive hybrid nukes are looking better all the time.

    New β€œhybrid” nuclear electricity plants can be quickly built using PBMR reactors and standard β€œoff-the-shelf” coal power plant turbine-generators. For additional safety these reactors can be buried in underground silos.


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