Leave Feedback

MIT discovery could provide big boost for wind power

Tom Jackson • Mar 23, 2010 at 6:27 PM

Suddenly, wind power as an energy source looks more feasible than it did just a few weeks ago.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has discovered a new way to store energy produced from solar power so that the energy is still available when the sun goes down. A July 31 news release from MIT says that the method is a "simple, inexpensive, highly efficient process."

This is potentially a big deal because there's a big problem with the fashionable, "green" methods for producing energy: They only work part of the time. You can't get energy from solar after sunset, and wind turbines stop moving if the wind isn't blowing. There is no good, cheap method for storing really large amounts of electricity.

That's why although wind and solar power is growing, the U.S. still has to rely on coal plants, nuclear power and other conventional power sources to provide sufficient power.

Wind power has been touted as a key to economic development in for the Lake Erie Coast -- because we can make the wind turbine components, but also because we can produce the power, too.

A new report by produced for the Erie County Economic Development Corp. by AngelouEconomics says the county should work to become a wind power hub. An article by Harvey Wasserman at RenewableEnergyWorld.com says that "standardized wind maps of the Great Lakes region show one of the most concentrated potential green energy resources in the world."

The MIT news release dwells on the solar angle. But I asked the news release's author, Anne Trafton, if the discovery couldn't make wind power more practical, too.

"The researchers who developed this are focusing on solar, but it could in theory also be used to store energy produced by wind turbines," she replied.

I'll have more on this in an article in the Sunday paper.

Recommended for You