by Alexander Flores
As of September 2014, an $8-billion dollar green energy project has been proposed to link one of the nation’s largest wind farms to one of the world’s biggest energy storage facilities. This first initiative of its kind in the United States was strung together by four companies: Duke-American Transmission Co., Dresser-Rand, Magnum Energy, and Pathfinder Renewable Wind Energy, in hopes to provide large quantities of clean electricity to the Los Angeles area by 2023. This project in particular would involve the construction of one of the largest wind farms in Wyoming and one of the largest energy storage facilities in Utah with a 525-mile electric transmission line connecting the two sites.
The $4-billion dollar wind farm would be built, owned, and operated by Pathfinder Renewable Wind Energy and would generate 2,100 megawatts of electricity. Along with this, the $1.5-billion energy storage facility would be installed in Delta, Utah, by Pathfinder Renewable Wind Energy, Magnum Energy, and Dresser-Rand. This “compressed air energy storage” would be composed of four vertical caverns that would be one-quarter mile high, 290 feet in diameter, and 41 million cubic feet in volume. As a unit, the four caverns combined are proposed to store 60,000 megawatt-hours of electricity. The $2.6-billion, 525-mile electric transmission line on the other hand would be built by Duke-American Transmission in order to transport electricity from the Wyoming wind farm to the energy storage facility in Utah. An existing 490-mile transmission line would also aid in electricity transport from Utah to the Los Angeles area. The underground storage facility would help solve the intermittency of renewable energy. Without wind, wind farms can’t produce electricity and without sunlight, solar farms can’t produce electricity. With the ideal utilization of the electric transmission line, the wind farm would be able to function similarly to a natural gas power plant, which is capable of delivering large amounts of electricity whenever necessary based on demand. For instance, when customer demand is low, the storage facility would use electricity from the wind farm to compress and inject high-pressure air into the energy storage caverns. Then, when customer demand is high, the stored, high-pressure compressed air would be combined with minimal natural gas to power eight generators for electricity production. This energy storage facility would ultimately reduce the need for expensive backup power plants and power lines when there isn’t any wind or sun (at night) to be utilized by a traditional wind or solar farm to produce electricity. If these four companies were to have their formal proposal approved by the Southern California Public Power Authority later in 2015, this project could potentially generate 9.2 million megawatt-hours per year and serve approximately 1.2 million Los Angeles-area homes once in full effect. For our sake, in terms of a “greener” future, let’s all hope this one goes the distance.
Downey, John. 2014. Duke Energy joint venture part of $8 billion bid to supply green energy to Southern California. Charlotte Business Journal. Sept. 23, 2014.
Duke American Transmission Co. 2015. (http://www.datcllc.com/news-releases/8-billion-green-energy-initiative-proposed-for-los-angeles/)