Coming: Cheap Offshore Wind Energy Via Energy Storage “Bags”?

Storing the energy generated by wind power is not, at present, a hugely pressing issue, as less than ten percent of the world’s electricity is produced this way. But if offshore wind-power is going to scale up–and be competitive with fossil fuels–Professor Seamus Garvey of the University of Nottingham and his new company, Nimrod Energy Ltd. (a university spin-off), believe that a storage strategy called Energy Bags are the key.

By using giant wind turbines to compress and pump air into huge undersea “bags” anchored to the seabed (or geological formations where deep water is not available) the energy generated on windy days would be stored for future use. The high pressure air would then be expanded in special turbo-generator sets to provide electricity when it’s needed, regardless of the weather. The Energy Bag concept is based on Professor Garvery’s Integrated Compressed Air Renewable Energy Systems (ICARES) research, in development at the University of Nottingham since early in 2006. 


image via University of Nottingham

The good professor has a big vision–literally. The smallest of the wind turbines in his offshore design measure nearly 750 feet in diameter, part of a network of vast floating offshore ‘energy farms’ he sees off the coastline of the UK in the near future. Based on his radical redesign of present turbine technology, Garvey believes that the total amount of structural material per kW of rated power can be slashed, effectively cutting costs to less than 20 percent of pumped hydro, the cheapest competing technology. As Nimrod Energy Ltd. has just been launched, it remains to be seen whether investors will see the Garvey’s vision, too.

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Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.