Wind power that can be operational 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, wind energy available even when the wind is not blowing. This is the objective of two companies, Max Boegl Wind AG and GE Renewable Energy, designing what will be the first wind turbine with an integrated mini-hydroelectric plant.
This is not an obviously normal wind turbine. The prototype, already in the design phase, will be, according to GE, the tallest that has ever been built so far, almost 180 meters. At the base of the tower, the real innovation: a water tank connected to a larger container placed at a lower height.
The operation is practically identical to that of a hydroelectric pumping station when electricity is needed, the water will flow naturally from the turbine to the hydroelectric plant downstream. When production exceeds demand, wind energy will be used to pump the water into the turbine’s water tank, which acts like a giant battery. Obviously, for this system to work, the correct altitude and sufficient headroom are necessary to create a reservoir.
The idea is not new, on the Canary Island of El Hierro, they use this same technique to become an energy self-sufficient island.
They have already found a suitable place to install the first prototypes. Located in the hills of the Swabian Franconian Forest, the wind farm will be 13.6 MW and should see the light of day by the end of 2017. The following year the 13.6 MW hydroelectric plant will be built.
The team behind the project argues that this innovative design can provide a rapid increase in production, allowing hydroelectric turbines to react immediately to fluctuations in power consumption.
Wind energy is a cheap energy source, but its big problem is that it is not constant. This system could give you the necessary stability to compete on equal terms.