Thursday, December 22, 2016

Interesting $1 Billion Science Project Okayed For Martinsdale, Montana -- December 22, 2016


December 31, 2016: twenty-four hours ago I had not heard of compressed and now it's getting a thread of its own. LOL. Another reader has chimed in on ways to store wind energy; see comments. I brought it up here so browsers could find it:
.... curious that you should bring up pumped hydro, since most of this past week iIve been involved in a comment thread about it which was somewhat over my head:

I got involved because 30 years ago I had the 'clever' idea to use pumped hydro between Lake Ontario and Lake Huron in lieu of building another nuclear power plant on Lake Erie, and brought that up in comments.
The professors and engineers at this site explained to me why that wasn't very feasible, while working up estimates on power yields and costs. I was refereed to a report for the Australian government for more details, which points out that pumped hydro accounts for 99% of all electrical power storage globally. You might be surprised, as I was, that compressed air was #2, ahead of any form of battery:
I think I will stick to the Bakken, crude oil, and natural gas. With the glut of oil and natural gas, it almost seems these other projects are solutions looking for a problem. The Australian ROAM study was dated 2012, and therefore commissioned some time before the Bakken shale revolution. The shale revolution has changed everything.

December 30, 2016: a reader sent me a long commentary on "pumped storage." I did not ask whether I could post his comment or not, but it was too good to not share. This is the reader's note, with minimal editing, anonymous.
Because "science project" suggests the billion-dollar cost will be directed toward research into the unknown, what aspect of the project is new? We were plugging things into power outlets supplied by a wind turbine (brand name: Windcharger) on our ND farm, way back in the 40's. And hydroelectric pumped storage was a fascinating new concept for me, also already decades ago, as it related to Montana's Hungry Horse Dam.

The last time I checked, the price of energy from coal-fired plants still beat both wind and solar by a mile. And it appeared to be of positive relevance that the project location was along a major power corridor linking the Bonneville and Colstrip (coal) power distribution systems. --- Instead of shuttering Colstrip plants, think of the carbon credits they could earn by powering the pumps for this and similar projects' water storage reservoir(s). (Make no mistake, I despise the gaming of the energy industry and consumers with taxes on carbon masked as trading in carbon credits.)

In descriptions of "the project," storage lakes and reservoirs are analogous to batteries. By the same token, coal and oil fields have proven themselves as storage batteries of solar power. All who question the veracity of that line should read Michael Faraday's Christmas lectures for young people and anyone else who would like to understand just about everything that was known about the universe in his day. (I believe Faraday, himself, made some such claim and one that readers of said lectures about the candle would, yet today, find credible.)

For some reason, clicking on many ".gov" sites brings up the message that my Safari browser cannot access the site---even formerly favorite NASA sites. Such was the case, when searching for verification of widespread use of hydroelectric pumped storage. But if you scroll to chapter 3 of the successfully linked site, a graphic will illustrate the point. Many, for me, inaccessible sources mention Hungry Horse Dam, but I note it is missing on the map of MT. I presume it is just a minor among the selected majors.

For further, out-of-the-box thinking, I will be interested to know to what extent the feeder stream for "the project" is dewatered by irrigation, drought or, potentially, by the project itself; and, to know If the water stored and used for power generation will be a closed system, so that, once charged, the only major loss of water would be from evaporation.

If pumped water storage is a solution to unreliable wind energy, why not go straight for wind storage?--- "What?" is what I, too, said, the first time I heard mention of this.

I still marvel at a selling point for mining potash in north central ND. The caverns created by solution mining could be utilized to store wind to supplement wind power generation when the wind didn't blow. I presume that, like natural gas, air is very compressible, so abandoned salt and potash mines are capable of holding their volume in air many, many times over. Utilizing the power of wind turbines to compress the air when wind is abundant, its release to drive wind turbines would, theoretically, help solve the problem of reliability in the wind energy sector. OK, coal or gas backup may still be required, both of which are abundant in the area.

Let's consider a hybrid between above notions of wind storage on the plains and "pumped storage" for "the project" in mountainous terrain with the necessary differential in elevation between hydroelectric generators and the reservoir for storage of pumped water. Yes, how about water and wind teaming up to generate hydroelectric power on the flat plains of North Dakota and Saskatchewan, where potash mining is in progress in Sask. and where potash pilot wells and leasing indicate considerable potential in ND. In a closed water storage system, one wouldn't even have to pump water uphill which would surely consume more energy than could be generated by letting gravity pull it back down through the spinning blades of water turbines. Compressed air, as in a home water system pressure tank, would push the water through the blades of hydro-turbines. And the same water could be recycled ad infinitum, obviating the need for thousands of acre feet of water that would have to be replenished if discharged into an irrigation canal or the stream from which tapped. OK, coal or gas backup to maintain air pressure and operation of compressors would still be nice.

The science is there to quickly determine whether there would be any energy and profit gain at the end of such a process. But, going back to "the project," the aim appears to be the same---to use wind itself, a more expensive energy source than NG or coal, to solve its problem with its own reliability, through use of surrogate, hydro-power to produce energy more cheaply than that from the original input (wind).

Now then, does it not appear to be a fool's errand to create through adoption of "wind" the problem we are, in both examples, trying to solve through some version of pumped storage? Rather than the default coal-fired plants, a necessary duplication in both "storage" systems, I would bypass wind altogether and cast my lot with coal and NG in step one of both "pumped storage" systems. Did I forget to emphasize "CLEAN" in coal?

Why would we need the second system at all, if one opted for coal? --- For the subsidies, the carbon credits, the mandated regulations, and because the wind and mine caverns are there (or can be). How else would they be economic? 
Original Post
Company plans to "store" excess electricity generated by wind farm for periods when turbines not producing electricity. Story here. Data points:
  • water running downhill would turn hydropower turbines to produce electricity
  • water would be pumped back up with pumps powered by electricity generated by wind farm
  • when wind turbines not turning, dammed water would be released to flow downhill to turn hydropower turbines
  • top of the hill: 3,000-foot long reservoir
  • 177-acre site
  • near the tiny town of Martinsdale; population, less than 100 people
  • Absaroka Energy, Bozeman, MT; central part of the state
  • $1 billion, 400-megawatt storage project
  • 50-year license granted by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
  • water would be drawn from Cottonwood Creek, a tributary of the Musselshell River, via an existing irrigation system for a nearby ranch
  • site is located near a pair of large transmission lines that originate in Colstrip, MT
  • construction to begin no earlier than 2018
The Literature Page
For The Granddaughters

In the November 24, 2016, issue of The New York Review of Books, Julian Bell reviews two new books on the British painter and art critic, J. M. W. Turner. A portrait of Turner will be on the new England £20 note.

I can't say for sure -- I haven't found documentation on the net -- but I think Julian Bell is the grandson of Clive Bell and Vanessa Bell. Vanessa was the sister of Virginia Woolf. This is the genealogy, I believe:

Quentin Claudian Stephen Bell, 1910- 1996, historian and author, was the son of Clive Bell and Vanessa Bell (née Stephen), and the nephew of Virginia Woolf (née Stephen).  Quentin Bell and wife Anne Olivier Popham Bell had three children including a son named Julian Bell. Julian Bell is a painter and writer, living in Lewes, Sussex.  It all fits.

In addition, Julian Bell's younger sister is a writer: Virginia Nicholson, the writer of Charleston: A Bloomsbury House and Garden, Among the Bohemians and Singled Out.

We have a copy of Charleston: A Bloomsbury House and Garden.

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