Smoothing out fluctuations in wind power with “wind”

In reading the current issue of New Scientist, I found a pointer to a blog entry called “Bug eats electricity, farts biogas.”

Needless to say, I had to learn more.

So I clicked through to read about some research being done 100 miles from my home as the crow flies, except the crow would run into the Allegheny Mountains on the way.

One of the problems with wind power is that it is not always available when needed. When the wind blows strongly, it produces more power than can be used immediately, but when the weather is calm, supplemental power will be required. The article describes a process for chemical storage of electrical energy produced by wind and other inherently variable sources, primarily solar.

To quote the article: “The new method relies on a microorganism studied by Bruce Logan‘s team at Pennsylvania State University in University Park. When living on the cathode of an electrolytic cell, the organism can take in electrons and use their energy to convert carbon dioxide into methane.” The methane can then be burned to produce electricity, the same way as natural gas can be used but with a significant advantage. Instead of burning a fossil fuel, the process recycles atmospheric CO2, or even better, the CO2 from flues of conventional power plants. It’s carbon neutral.

It gives a whole new meaning to the euphemism “passing wind.”

Fred Bortz
Science Books for Young Readers
and
Science Book Reviews

3 thoughts on “Smoothing out fluctuations in wind power with “wind”

  1. I doubt capacitors are cost-effective (or even feasible) at the energy-storage scale involved here, since I have not seen any serious proposals for using them. There are all kinds of alternatives that have been proposed, such as batteries and pumped water, but cost and engineering are issues that have to be considered.

    A bug that farts methane may be more cost-effective. Despite the humor, that may turn out to be a useful technology.

    Fred Bortz
    Science Books for Young Readers
    and
    Science Book Reviews

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