A research paper describes the benefits of linking up wind power farms before connecting wind power to the grid. Discovery News reports:
[R]esearch shows that if the farms were linked to each other first before delivering the electricity to the country’s grid, wind could offer steady, dependable power at a cost lower than presently available.
“It’s a really simple idea, but it’s not done because there are state and county boundaries. Different utilities are managing different farms,” said Cristina Archer, a research associate at Stanford University.
It is a simple idea, similar in some respects to the old industry standard practice of interconnecting neighboring utilities to enhance both utility’s reliability. Even with wind it isn’t a new idea – Archer and Jacobson cite similar ideas described for wind power in the late 1970s. What has changed, somewhat, are the economics of wind power and increasing public interest in non-fossil fuel electric power.
I don’t think the economics of power have changed so much that an idea suggested in the article – linking up multiple wind farms in the Midwest and then transporting that power all the way to California – makes sense. But, then, I’m not a transmission engineer, and one wind power company is working on what sounds to me to be a similarly impractical plan in Europe. Discovery News says, “Archer and Jacobson’s plan to interconnect wind energy is not so far-fetched. A European project called Supergrid, initiated by renewable energy company Airtricity is already underway to link a series of offshore wind farms from the Mediterranean to the North Sea.” You can see Airtricity’s Supergrid concept here.
Personally, if I were spending my own money, I’d bet on energy storage advances doing more for wind power in the long run than the linking of geographically diverse wind farms. But interconnection of wind farms can be done now, with existing technology, while work on energy storage technology continues.
The paper, by Cristina L. Archer and Mark Z. Jacobson, is forthcoming in the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climate.