Wind Project of the Year — Laurel Mountain, Barbour and Randolph counties, West Virginia
Deep in the heart of coal country is a wind farm that’s serving as a model for how renewable resources and power storage can work together to help utilities better manage the load.
The AES Laurel Mountain project spans 13 miles along the mountain ridges and includes 61 GE wind turbines that feed into the PJM Interconnection, which serves more than 50 million people.
The project has an impressive 98 MW capacity, but its most noteworthy feature is the 32 MW of integrated battery-based energy storage from A123 Systems. According to AES, the energy storage system is currently the largest of its kind in operation in the world and it will provide 260,000 MWh annually.
While wind is maligned by some for its variability in production, others see this project as an example of how a wind-storage partnership could provide utilities with a stable energy source.
When the wind is blowing and grid operators don’t need the power, they direct it instead to a field of lithium-ion batteries stored inside rows of shipping containers right on site for use later on. When there isn’t enough wind, operators can tap into the reserve capacity to smooth out delivery.
The storage capacity, in effect, does what intermittent sources like sun and wind cannot — it matches supply to demand. It can also greatly reduce the amount of wind power that is curtailed — a practice in which turbines are shut out because the power they could produce is not needed at that exact moment. From a developers point of view, a project facing less likelihood of curtailment, could be a whole lot more profitable and much more attractive to investors if costs for energy systems tied to wind developments continue to come down.