GENERAL Electric (GE), the American multinational conglomerate, is close to completing the world’s first commercial wind project with integrated power storage.
Located in rural County Kerry, Ireland, the project could help the country to cope with rapidly increasing energy demand, and to achieve its renewable energy goals.
The wind project, named Tullahennel, consists of 13 wind turbines which together have a total capacity of 37 MW. Each turbine is integrated with a lithium ion battery, roughly the size of a small car, located at the base of the tower. Each battery can store up to 69 kWh of electricity, which can be fed into the grid as needed. This hybrid approach stabilises the power supply, enabling the systems to store excess electrons for energy use when demand is low, and reducing the need for fossil fuels when wind stops blowing.
Tullahennel is a crucial project for Ireland. The country’s energy demand is expected to increase by 15–36% over the next decade. A report by EirGrid, the Irish transmission grid manager and operator, said that the driving factor in this increase was the growth of data centres. The centres already consume 6% of Ireland’s electricity and now under a 15-year purchase-agreement all Tullahennel’s power will go to Microsoft Corp data centres.
In addition, this evolution in renewable energy could help Ireland achieve the Irish government’s mandate to generate 40% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Although Ireland ranks highly among EU countries in clean energy use, it still gets 9% of its energy from burning peat, which has adverse environmental impacts.
EirGrid has also benefitted Tullahennel through active encouragement. The authority has included storage as part of its official programme to expand renewable energy sources. It is one of the first markets to create a commercial incentive for using storage.
Read more: The Chemical Engineer