PORTLAND -- Researchers have found a way to store energy generated from the wind thousands of feet below the ground.
Here in the Pacific Northwest we rely on renewable energy like wind power to help keep our lights on. But sometimes it's so windy the system produces more energy then we need. And with no place to store it, that energy is lost.
But researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy and Bonneville Power Administration have come up with a way to take that excess wind energy and use it to compress air. That compressed air would then be pumped thousands of feet underground into airtight cavities. Later, when it’s needed, a valve would release the energy back to the surface.
Bonneville Power says the air would be held underground at a pressure only slightly above normal.
“If you happen to have a leak in your underground reservoir with compressed air it’s just going to return to where it came from in the atmosphere anyway so it’s very safe,” explained Steve Knudsen with Bonneville Power Administration.
The BPA says the compressed air storage plants would also save rate payers money down the road when the demand for electricity to power everything from our phones to our cars goes way up.
“We could capture the excess energy that we have and not have to invest into new expensive technology,” said Joel Scruggs with Bonneville Power Administration. "The goal of the study was to determine if the kind of storage could work in the Northwest, technically and economically."