Offshore wind energy problems may be solved through new approach on storage

Offshore wind energy problems may be solved through new approach on storage

May 9, 2013 Off By Bret Williams

Offshore Wind Energy

MIT takes on the issue of wind energy storage

Wind is unpredictable, but represents a promising source of energy if it can be harnessed. Wind energy has grown to become one of the most significant sectors of renewable power in the world, despite the fickle nature of wind itself. As wind energy begins to play a more integral role in the energy structure of several countries, finding ways to more reliably harness the power of wind is becoming a more important task. Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) may have found a way to alleviate this particular problem with wind energy to some degree.

Offshore wind energy continues to grow in popularity, despite its own problems

While conventional wind turbines have proven to be somewhat useful in collecting the power of wind, the offshore variety has shown more promise. Offshore wind turbines have the benefit of being exposed to the strong, often uninhibited strength of wind. Winds that can be found at sea are not constricted by earthly features, such as mountains or forests. As such, offshore wind turbines are able to generate significantly more energy while at sea than their more traditional counterparts. The problem, however, is transferring this energy back to the mainland. Storage may be the answer.

Spherical storage structures could provide on-demand electrical power

MIT researchers have devised a method whereby energy from offshore wind turbines could be stored underwater and used on-demand. This involves installing massive, spherical structures beneath the turbines themselves, attached to the seafloor. The spheres would serve as a sort of anchor for the turbines, allowing them to remain in place, while also providing storage for the electrical power they produce. The spheres themselves are hollow and any excess energy produced by their associated wind turbines will pump seawater into the spheres. When energy is required on the mainland, this water is allowed to escape the sphere, passing through a turbine connected to a generator. This produces the electrical power that is sent back to land.

Spheres may help the viability of wind energy

According to MIT, a single sphere of this nature would cost approximately $12 million to construct and deploy. Researchers suggest that this energy production and storage method could be a reliable source of power, even when winds are not as strong as they usually are. Such an approach may help offshore wind energy find more momentum, at least in the U.S. where the issue of transmitting electrical power back to the mainland has proven to be a difficult problem.