How ya gonna keep wind down on the farm?

Timlynn Babitsky | Inconsistent Power,Issues: Strategies & Tactics,Wind Innovations | Friday, April 25th, 2008

by Timlynn Babitsky
You can’t depend on wind they say. When you least expect it, the wind dies, the sails luff, the power goes. As we stretch to reach national 25×25 goals, there are plans afoot to tame the will-o-the-wind. The Iowa Stored Energy Park, a joint project of Iowa, Minnesota and the Dakotas, is one such effort. How do they plan to get wind energy on demand? Why, simply harvest the wind’s energy and store it for future use. And once again we see that grassroots organizing is so important!  

The Iowa Stored Energy Park (ISEP) is a power supply project, being developed by over 100 municipal utilities across four states. The idea is similar to current methods being used to store natural gas underground in many locations around the world.

The Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) project uses wind generated energy to compresses air and store it underground in a natural geological formation for later use in making electricity. When wind energy wanes, the stored air is released, mixed with fuel and used to power combustion turbines to produce electricity.

Ok. So it may not be totally clean and green but it helps to make wind energy more reliably consistent. And, this process uses less fuel than a conventional combustion-turbine facility and will utilize some of the latest innovations in electricity generation.

When current testing is completed, the project will move into design, procurement and construction. Planners expect that this resource will be available to utilities and their customers in 2011. There are currently two other CAES wind energy storage locations in the world, a 110 MW facility in Alabama and a 290 MW facility in Germany.

But where does the grassroots organizing come in?

Well, you’d think that Iowa now being #4 in the country in wind energy generation would be totally focused on GREEN power. Not so.

Iowa gets nearly 90 percent of electricity from coal, despite vast wind, sun and biomass potential.” states the Iowa Public Interest Research Group.  Iowa Public TV’s “Wind Energy In Iowa” (#153) show on The Iowa Journal had interviews with Iowa wind activists/engineers Ed Woolsey and Tom Wind.

Both pointed to a disappointing Iowa legislative session this year where it was nearly impossible to generate interest among state legislators in anything other than coal. Woolsey and Wind noted the importance of grassroots organizing for bringing renewable energy projects to the front of legislators’ interests. The large corporations have more money and power to get legislative attention. There needs to be a swelling movement at the grassroots level to get the attention needed to make policy changes. And, that’s where our Seventeen Steps to Success come in.  More on the “Power Struggle in Iowa“ later.  

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