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December 16, 2014 AT 1:30 am

New Plans To Store Wind Power In Salt Caverns #NatureAndTechnology

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Groundbreaking technology may make it possible to store wind energy in salt mines. via calgaryherald

In the Lloydminster area, a Calgary company is ready to carve out large underground salt caverns to store excess wind energy — the first use of the technology in Canada.

Rocky Mountain Power president Jan van Egteren says the storage sites could be ready in five years.

Salt caverns have been used to store natural gas for years, but only two other projects in North America are using them for compressed air that is turned into electricity.

The caverns are carved out by pumping water deep down to dissolve the underground salt layer peculiar to the Lloydminster area.

Excess wind electricity would be used to pump compressed air into caverns about the size of a 60-storey building. The salt walls allow very little to escape. Then, when the wind dies, the compressed air is released and used to turn a generator to make electricity.

The cavern could store enough compressed air to provide electricity for five days to a city the size of Red Deer, says van Egteren.

“It could really help stabilize the grid by taking off power when the wind is really blowing.”

With Environment Minister Kyle Fawcett in Lima, Peru, for a critical round of international climate change talks, Alberta is taking a hard look at using more renewable energy to reduce its carbon emissions from coal-burning plants.

British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario also accompanied the federal delegation and Fawcett says Alberta is pushing for a common price on carbon across Canada and the U.S.

Meanwhile, the government stepped up efforts to find new technology to solve the critical problem of uneven wind power — those occasions when winds blow harder and create more power than is needed, or ramp up electricity too fast for the grid to handle.

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