Adding wind power to the existing electric grid may not have the net effect of reducing carbon emissions, according to a new study published by researchers at Argonne National Laboratory.
Because the wind blows inconsistently, power companies would have to turn fossil-fuel plants on when windmills fall still. Turning fossil-fuel plants on and off adds inefficiencies, producing carbon emissions just to heat up boilers before energy production can begin.
“Turning these large plants on and off is inefficient. A certain percentage of the energy goes into just heating up the boilers again,” said Lauren Valentino, one of the authors of the study, which was published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
These inefficiencies may cancel the carbon savings of the wind power.
Fossil-fuel plants also operate less efficiently at less than full power, so reducing demand for their power, without eliminating it, can result in higher carbon emissions, according to the researchers.
Argonne researchers are working on one possible solution to this problem: batteries that can store wind power for use when the wind stops blowing—as well as store solar energy for use at night.
The researchers modeled their study on the electric grid in Illinois, which depends on a large number of coal and gas plants, and where the wind blows strongest at night, when demand is lowest. The DOE-funded laboratory released a summary of the study today.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding