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Earth Power Technology

Belgium Plans Artificial Island To Store Wind Power 242

bmcage writes "Belgium wants to build an artificial energy storage island within 5 years. The island will store excess energy produced at night from the offshore wind farms already present in the North-Sea. From the article: 'Belgium is planning to build a doughnut-shaped island in the North Sea that will store wind energy by pumping water out of a hollow in the middle, as it looks for ways to lessen its reliance on nuclear power. One of the biggest problems with electricity is that it is difficult to store and the issue is exaggerated in the case of renewable energy from wind or sun because it is intermittent depending on the weather. "We have a lot of energy from the wind mills and sometimes it just gets lost because there isn't enough demand for the electricity," said a spokeswoman for Belgium's North Sea minister Johan Vande Lanotte.'"
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Belgium Plans Artificial Island To Store Wind Power

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  • by Sqr(twg) ( 2126054 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @06:48AM (#42624253)

    You can't have wind power on any serious scale without storage. Storage built off-shore - near the wind-farm - also lessens the load on the link to the mainland.

    Only question is: Will the polulation accept the high price, or will they prefer to import cheaper nuclear energy from France?

  • by rufty_tufty ( 888596 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @07:16AM (#42624351) Homepage

    Don't forget as well the costs to build this are basically pi*d + turbines, and the storage capacity would be pi*r^2; so economies of scale rapidly kick in - it makes great financial sense to build this HUGE!
    And taking a large amount of farmland or living space out of commission when there is all that unused ocean there just seems plain daft in comparison. What "job" the ocean does it still can do with this, not the same as if you tried to build something analogous on land.

  • by FreeTherapy ( 2768701 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @07:32AM (#42624411)
    In the daytime, there is a lack of energy in Belgium and energy needs to be imported from neighbor countries. Most of the energy in Belgium is used for (fully automated) industrial processes. Wouldn't it be more cost effective to just make certain industries only run at night, when there is too much energy? This could be made an attractive option if nighttime energy prices are low enough. Also, 800 million euros is fucking insane! I estimate (too lazy to check facts and cite sources) investing that money in extra wind turbines instead of energy storage would produce an extra 1 gigawatt during the daytime. There would still be massive excess of energy at night, but hey, the government could use that to generate good ol' bitcoins! Government budget was never solved more quickly!
  • by mangu ( 126918 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @08:11AM (#42624537)

    The scheme is not as much about price arbitrage as about smoothing demand.

    There's more demand for energy during the evenings than during the mornings, and price differences will never be able to eliminate that. No one will turn off their lights in the evening to turn them on during the morning, no matter what the prices are.

    The effect of energy storage are to allow a steady supply, like wind, to be used when it's most needed. Storage would be even more important if solar energy is used, for obvious reasons.

  • by nojayuk ( 567177 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @08:41AM (#42624629)

    Quite a few energy-hungry industries already use cheap night-time baseload electricity -- iron and steel foundries for example often do melts during the night and pour and cast during the day.

    As for the projected cost of 800 million Eu, that's about the regular price for pumped storage. Dinorwig and Cruachan in the UK cost about the same, roughly $200 million per GWhr of storage in today's money. Storage generally is expensive; pumped storage is cheap compared to batteries (about $1.5 billion per GWhr), capacitor banks, flywheels etc. It would be more productive to build a nuclear baseload generator station (500,000 GWhr of generation @1.5GW over a 60-year lifespan for about $20 billion construction and lifetime operating costs) but that's not too likely due to nuclear being scary.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 18, 2013 @09:01AM (#42624689)

    d) The guy who owns the company that would be contracted to do it is the golf-buddy of the guy who makes the decision.

    It's interesting to note that when Steve Stevaert was still in office, solar power was really promoted and heavy subsidized. (He had his hands deep in some solar-panel companies). Now that Johan Vande Lanotte took over from Stevaert, (same political party: spa), solar-power is getting beat up heavy with serious cuts in funding etc. however his hands being very deep in wind-power pockets, much is happening to facilitate and promote wind power.

    That party is filled with corrupt and crooked officials, their sister party in Wallonië has similar problems with several scandals. e.g. using government visa cards for private uses etc...
    No, I don't know why people still vote for them.

  • by anorlunda ( 311253 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @09:40AM (#42624877) Homepage

    Pumped storage hydro is a superb way to store and retrieve electric energy. Indeed it is the only proven way to do it on a massive scale.

    Power engineers love pumped storage facilities because of a long list of desirable properties they have. From the power grid point of view, they blend well with everything ever done in the past or contemplated in the future.

    USA slashdotters may be interested to hear that the Blenheim-Gilboa pumped storage facility has been aiding the reliability and affordability of electric power in New York State and New York City for decades.

    The innovation in the Belgian case is to do it using a hole in the water instead of a lake on a mountain top. I'm sure that it will present it's own engineering challenges, but nothing insurmountable comes to mind. We should all wish them good luck.

  • Re:Cost? Price? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by foniksonik ( 573572 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @09:56AM (#42624961) Homepage Journal

    Fossil fuel infrastructure costs just as much to build as does nuclear. This will just take longer to return the investment in terms of power that is paid for. Without value applied to pollution, cost of waste products, etc we can't measure the savings from using a non-polluting system (exclusive of the pollution costs to build it). If we did the return on investment could be seen as much higher than investment in other energy generation systems.

  • by foniksonik ( 573572 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @10:04AM (#42625023) Homepage Journal

    Hmmm 800M euro and a working system in 2 years with no failure mode vs some 10's of Billions and a 5+ year wait with a disaster level failure mode. Both will last at least 25 years. One has very low maintenance costs while the other has extremely regulated, hence expensive maintenance costs.

    Let me tally up a few figures on a napkin back here... Okay, you're right Nuclear, wait miscarried the 1. Nope, gravity wins!!!! Yes gravity is the more efficient force to harness in this scenario.

  • by usuallylost ( 2468686 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @10:18AM (#42625151)

    Does anyone ever do an analysis of the costs of doing a cost analysis?

    This is modded funny but we, in the US, should really be asking this question. Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) is so unwieldy and requires so much man power and bureaucracy that I would not be at all surprised to find that it sometimes doubles the cost of things the US government buys.

  • by nedlohs ( 1335013 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @11:25AM (#42625643)

    An environmental impact study isn't a cost analysis so that's irrelevant. They aren't trying to determine the most cost effective method of doing something (in which case spending more on the determining that then a particular method would cost is really stupid), they are trying to determine if they'll screw anything up by doing the work.

    You can think it's a silly to do and that there's no need to care what the environmental impact is, or that any impact will worth the benefits, or whatever. But the time and cost compared to the time and cost to do the work isn't an argument for that.

IN MY OPINION anyone interested in improving himself should not rule out becoming pure energy. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.