April 7, 2010

Connected turbines promise smooth wind power

Put enough wind turbines off the US east coast and you can provide much of the region's power. Interconnect those wind turbines and you can smooth out the flow of power they feed into the grid.

A study of wind data collected at 11 offshore weather stations from Maine to Florida from 1998 through 2002 shows that a grid of wind turbines spread over a large area would have provided stable power during that time. The variability of individual wind farms' output makes the power less reliable and more difficult to manage than power from other sources.

Connecting wind turbines in a grid provides two benefits over standalone offshore wind farms: it compensates for moment-to-moment fluctuations, and it makes wind power more consistent over longer time periods.

Offshore wind power has a lot of potential. A planned 130-turbine wind farm, Cape Wind, will provide an average of 170 megawatts of power, which is enough to meet 74 percent of the electricity needs of Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.

Research paper:
Electric power from offshore wind via synoptic-scale interconnection
Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, published online April 5, 2010

Researchers' contact:
Willett Kempton

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