By Bob Geiger
Dolan Media Newswires
Minneapolis — University of Minnesota researchers have been named lead agency by the National Science Foundation for a four-year, $2 million project to create a model for storing energy generated by offshore wind farms.
Researchers from the university’s College of Science and Engineering intend to develop a model that could help ease power imbalances.
“Our plan is to develop a 3-megawatt to 5-megawatt turbine,” said Perry Li, a professor of mechanical engineering at the university. Li said the researchers plan to develop a scale model for a turbine that would generate energy for about eight hours.
The researchers aim to develop a way to store energy from offshore wind turbines in air vessels with 3,000 to 5,000 pounds per square inch before being converted to electricity.
They will use hydraulics and pneumatics to avoid energy loss associated with multiple conversions.
“This grant will help us make progress on storing large amounts of energy and quickly turning on and off the storage unit to greatly improve the economics and utility wind power, especially offshore,” Li said.
“Storage is a key factor in our success in achieving the national goal of obtaining 20 percent of our energy from wind by 2030.”
The 20 percent by 2030 goal drives such industry groups as the American Wind Energy Association, which supports tax incentives and government aid.
The University of Minnesota is the only higher-education institution involved in the offshore storage project that is in a landlocked state. Li is deputy co-director of the university’s NSF Engineering Research Center that will make use of research done at the center.
Despite being geared toward offshore wind farms, the project’s technology could be used by land or sea-based wind farms, Li said.
Land-based storage systems being developed typically incorporate subterranean salt domes or limestone caverns to store compressed air, although such developments are not widely used.