ARS Engineer Finds Way to Meet Energy Demands with Wind, Solar Combos

Research shows ways to store extra energy to be used during peaks of energy demand.

Published on: Aug 13, 2010

Agricultural Research Service Agricultural Engineer Brian Vick may have found a way to increase the use of renewable energy for California, Texas and the rest of the U.S. by better blending solar and wind power. There may also be a way to store extra energy. Vick found in parts of Texas and California an almost exact mismatch of wind power production and peak energy demands during 24-hour period. Winds are lowest in the middle of the day when demand for power is greatest. The mismatch is also seasonal in Texas, with winds weakest in the summer when demand for power is highest.

Vick and his colleagues have tested the design of wind turbines and hybrid wind and solar systems for off-grid rural applications, residential grid systems and wind farms for the Department of Energy. They have done the same with wind and biodiesel hybrid systems that powered simulated electrical grids of remote locations, like areas of Alaska. He found the most efficient storage system to be one used in solar thermal power plants, where the sun heats fluids, keeps them hot and makes them ready to be used later to produce steam and generate electricity. Vick also found the extra energy created by wind late at night and early in the morning could be pumped into the grid and removed by storage facilities to match the utility loading during the day. He presented his results at this year's American Wind Energy Association Conference in Dallas, Texas.