Trump or no Trump, the global clean energy train has left the station
. A case in point is a new wind, hydropower, and energy storage collaboration between US-based GE and Germany’s Max Bögl Wind AG. The project is on track to connect its four wind turbines to the grid next year, with the hydropower component coming online in 2018.
The project represents an innovative combo of two different forms of renewable energy with an energy storage bonus thrown in.
Wind turbines and real estate
GE dropped a bit of a clue regarding one aspect of the project a couple of years ago, when it introduced its “space frame” turbine tower.
The company invited me to take a sneak peek of its prototype in California on behalf of CleanTechnica, and one thing I learned is that GE was beginning to think of wind turbine towers in terms of their footprint.
Our guide on the tour pointed out that the hollow design of the turbine tower provides the potential for piggybacking other uses inside the frame.
That’s a lot of useful space, right? The polyvinyl cladding allows daylight to filter through, so you could imagine indoor farming among many other options.
Wind power and energy storage
GE’s new project takes the piggyback idea to a whole new level.
The project is located at the Gaildorf wind farm. It includes four wind turbines with a combined capacity of 13.6 megawatts. The base of each turbine will double as a water storage reservoir, for a total of 1.6 million gallons (to be clear, these are not GE space frame towers — for obvious reasons, they are fully enclosed).
These storage units will interact with a nearby lake with a 9 million gallon capacity, and a 16 megawatt hydropower plant. In effect, the turbines will act as giant batteries and provide an opportunity for the hydroplant to operate economically:
During times of peak demand and high electricity prices, the hydro plant will be in production mode. During times of low electricity demand and lower prices, the hydro plant will be in pump mode, pumping and storing water–and hence energy–in the upper reservoir for later use.
To ice the renewable energy cake, the added storage raises the height of each turbine tower by 40 meters.
The end result is a “record-breaking” height of 246.5 meters, making these turbines the tallest in the world.
GE will contribute its new 3.4-137 (3.4 megawatts, 137 meter rotor diameter) wind turbines to the project. That includes the company’s Digital Wind Farm platform with Predix* software to maximize efficiency.
For those of you new to the wind energy topic, stronger, more consistent winds are located at higher altitudes. So, the taller the wind turbine, the better.
When the wind is blowing strong, excess energy from the turbines will go directly to the grid. During lulls, the hydropower plant will draw additional water from the turbine towers as needed.
Onward And Upwards For Pumped Storage
Compared to other forms of energy storage, conventional pumped hydro has a limited opportunity for global application. Geography is the main limiting factor because two reservoirs are required, and one must be located higher up than the other.
The innovative approach offered by the GE – Bögl collaboration expands those opportunities to more sites, where an in-ground upper reservoir is otherwise unfeasible.
According to GE, Bögl is already anticipating that it will engage in one or two similar projects in Germany annually after the Gaildorf project goes online.
As for GE, the company’s GE Renewable Energy arm has been front and center in the clean energy revolution, especially in the area of wind turbine technology.
The company positioned its wind turbine business to take full advantage of the federal Production Tax Credit for wind, and now it has been expanding into the wind transmission sector.
GE recently got back into the high voltage converter business after a 20-year hiatus, just in time to hook up with the proposed 720-mile Plains & Eastern wind transmission line. The company will provide three converter stations for the project, which also has the support of the Energy Department.http://reneweconomy.com.au/ge-forges-ahead-worlds-first-wind-hydro-storage-project-34492/