Solving Intermittency The Natural Way

on September 19, 2011 at 10:15 AM

What to do when the wind stops blowing at Western Wind Energy’s newest Arizona power plant? Hope the sun is shining.

On Friday, the Vancouver-based renewable energy company began operating its newest 10.5 MW combined wind/solar project in Kingman, Arizona. Though various wind-firming gas plants already exist in the United States, this plant is the first wind-solar plant on the continent that does not use any gas.

“Integration of multiple renewable fuel sources allows for the maximization of existing transmission infastructure by having a greater range of time of day availability,” said Western Wind Energy CEO and founder Jeff Ciachurski in a statement.

Wind turbine operators have long run into the problem of transmission, as wind farms tend to be far away from cities and therefore require long and costly new power lines. In addition, wind tends to blow most during evenings and cool days when electricity demand is lowest.

Read more about wind pricing: The Answer May Not Be Blowing In The Wind.

Combining two intermittent renewables that are generally most productive at different times of day–solar during the day and wind during the evening and night–may provide a new model to the renewable generation industry.

Industry-insiders have called for better energy storage technology to solve the intermittency issue, with some saying that electric vehicles could be the answer.

Watch a video from grid operator PJM on that possibility: MAGICC Grid.

But this project, called “The Project” would be approaching the issue from a totally different angle. It combines five Gamesa G-90 2 MW wind turbines with 500 Kw of solar panels on a single axis tracking system to provide renewable-sourced electric generation at a constant flow over the course of the day.

“This is a ground breaking, game changing development in the renewable energy industry where two completely separate types of technology and renewable fuel sources are integrated at the very beginning as a combined facility,” Ciachurski said.