Wind power that can be operational 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, wind power available even when the wind is not blowing. This is the goal of two companies, Max Boegl Wind AG and GE Renewable Energy, who are designing what will be the first wind turbine with an integrated mini hydropower plant.
It is not an obviously normal wind turbine. The prototype, already in the design phase, will be, according to GE, the highest ever built to date, nearly 180 meters. At the base of the tower, the real innovation: a water tank connected to a larger container placed at a lower height.
The operation is virtually identical to that of a hydroelectric pump station when electricity is needed, water will flow naturally from the turbine to the reservoir of the downstream hydroelectric plant. When production exceeds demand, wind power will be used to pump water into the turbine’s water tank, which acts like a giant battery. Obviously, for this system to work, the correct altitude and sufficient headroom are needed to create a tank.
The idea is not new, on the Canary Island of Hierro, they use this same technique to become an autonomous island in energy.
They have already found a suitable place to install the first prototypes. Located in the hills of the Swabian Franconian forest, the wind farm will be 13.6 MW and should be built by the end of 2017. The following year, the 13.6 MW hydroelectric plant will be built.
The team behind the project argues that this innovative design can enable a rapid increase in production, allowing hydroelectric turbines to react immediately to fluctuations in energy consumption.
Wind power is a cheap source of energy, but its big problem is that it is not constant. This system could give you the stability you need to compete on a level playing field.