Lost Opportunity

A while back I drove through a wind farm to visit a particularly smart friend of mine. I noted on the way that many of the turbines were still, and brought it up with Enrico Fermi (that’s not his actual name).

“Big problem with wind,” Enrico said, “is that it doesn’t blow when you really need it.”

I accepted it at the time, but today I say ‘fie’. Fie! Spin those turbines. If the power’s not needed immediately, it can be stored. Use the power to pump water back up to the reservoir behind a dam. That’s quality energy storage.

There’s a reservoir south of where I live, large and flat with a modest power-generation station at the end. It’s always windy there. If there were windmills local, set to pump water back up into the reservoir, then that modest power station would be able to put out a little more. It wouldn’t matter if the wind blew when no one cared, the power would be stored for later.

The reservoirs behind dams are our nation’s batteries, and they’re rechargeable. Mostly we rely on the sun to move water back upstream, but that doesn’t mean we can’t push the process a little bit.

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