Wind Power’s Variability Drives iPower

Producing power from renewable sources is one thing. Getting it onto the grid – that’s often the more difficult part of the clean-energy puzzle. In Denmark, a new effort aims to address the challenge, bringing together 32 partners in a consortium called iPower that hopes to turn research into solutions.

Anders Troi, from Denmark’s Risø National Laboratory of Sustainable Energy and head of the project, framed the task well: “We must find out how all the many millions of consumption units in private homes and industry can contribute to the flexibility which is needed when the electricity system is supplied with fluctuating energy.”

iPower, Denmark wind power and smart-grid

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Wind, which Denmark foresees providing half of its electricity by 2025, is what’s really driving what is essentially a smart-grid effort here. Because of the ups and downs inherent with wind power, iPower is looking to turn around the energy equation in a way that, at first blush at least, would probably make Americans a little uncomfortable. “iPower will help to rearrange electricity production so that it no longer is the consumer who decides how much electricity to be produced,” the group says, imagining a future in which “consumers adjust their consumption to the amount of electricity that at any time is available from sustainable, fluctuating energy sources.”

But iPower says its hope is that by understanding consumer habits and developing super-intelligent and sophisticated tools, you’d actually hardly notice the change. For instance, during high-appliance use periods, it would be the smart freezer that turns off (so you can continue to watch TV while heating water to do the dishes), coming back to life after bedtime, when energy use is low and wind-power production is running strong.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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