Friday, March 16, 2007

Those crazy Iowans and their gas

The Iowa Association of Mucipial Utilties is planning a project to pump high pressure air into underground caverns that they will then release and mix with natural gas to power electrical turbines. As much as I love my home state I'm dubious of a process that, in essence, is forcing a giant underground fart to make up for electrical generation lost on Midwest wind farms when the wind isn't blowing. My most pressing question is, if it takes energy to pump it down and energy (in the form of natural gas) to release it, is there a net-benefit? Perhaps the money would be better invested in a process I recently heard about being developed in Washington state to direct methane generated by cows into natural gas pipelines.
True, one big issue surrounding wind generation is its intermittant production. In the Northwest we use hydropower from Bonneville to supplement production on wind-less days. The trick is to find a similar renewable resource that can fill the production gaps. Giant farting caverns don't quite accomplish that. But maybe if the only way to develop wind projects is to do this, it's worth it overall?
Sowing the wind, reaping the electricity

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