For cities along the coast, where the price of electricity is highest and demand, especially at peaking periods, is greatest, researchers are exploring the idea of combining solar and wind to offer a new solution to meeting peak demand.
“I assumed offshore wind is going to happen,” explained State University of New York atmospheric sciences researcher Richard Perez, whose previous research has been in the use of photovoltaic (PV) solar to meet peak demand.
Perez also assumed the Google-backed Atlantic Wind Connection, the offshore wind transmission backbone being developed along the Eastern seaboard, will provide adequate interconnection. “There is more and more serious talk that it is going to happen, so I just assumed a wind farm off the coast of New York City could plug into it.”
Pioneering projects that combine solar and wind are being developed around the world and researchers are beginning to quantify the synergistic value of such an approach. Because of his “study of the capability of dispersed PV to do peak shaving,” Perez was approached by co-researchers Jeff Freedman of AWS Truepower and Thomas E. Hoff of Clean Power Research to consider the potential of offshore wind.
“The sun creates the heat wave that creates the peak demand and at the same time the sun can supply the power for PV. It’s a natural match,” Perez explained. Offshore wind, Freedman pointed out to him, works similarly. “When heat builds up on land along the coast with the cold ocean next to it, there is a natural updraft and a down draft at sea,” Perez said. “The wind comes in. Inland a few miles, there will be no wind but on the coast and immediately offshore there will be. If you have been on the beach on a hot afternoon, you will know this.”
The wind comes up a after the sun gets hot and lasts longer. “The sun will peak at noon,” Perez said. “Offshore wind will peak at 7 p.m. or 8 p.m., and the load peaks at 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. in big cities like New York, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C., so the wind and solar are really complementary.”
One of the key obstacles for offshore wind in the U.S. has been cost. But peak shaving — this is called capacity value — has the highest value of all electricity generation.
“If I were to do customer-side economics in New York City, where I get my peaking value from peaking reduction, I would say forget about offshore wind, because I’m better off using all PV,” Perez acknowledged. “However, if I see a bigger picture and I’m a regulator or a utility concerned with stability on the grid, I will pay a little more attention to what my options are for that later part of the peak.”
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