October 8, 2018 Read More →

Invenergy plans second wind, solar hybrid in Midwest

Inside Climate News:

Along a country road east of Lima, Ohio, a company is preparing to build one of the world’s largest renewable energy projects that pairs wind and solar to create a hybrid power source. It’s a rare combination now, but one that’s expected to become more common because of its potential to cut costs while providing a more consistent flow of clean energy.

Invenergy is starting with a 175 megawatt wind farm. Within the wind farm, it plans to build a 150 megawatt solar farm. Together, they would produce enough electricity for about 175,000 homes.

The wind and solar energy complement each other. They hit their peaks at different times of day and night, allowing them to provide a steadier output together than if each was alone. And they save money because they can share equipment, power lines and workers. The consistency is increasingly important as renewable energy replaces coal-fired plants, which can provide 24-7 power but that also create pollution and contribute to climate change.

Most renewable energy development so far has targeted either the sunniest or the windiest areas, without considering locations that could be good for both solar and wind. That’s changing as wind and solar costs decrease and the technology advances. Today, there are many parts of the U.S. where both wind and solar can be profitable, said Vahan Gevorgian, a chief engineer at the government’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado. “It will create economic opportunities for wind in parts of the U.S. where wind [farms are] not present,” he said.

In the Midwest, where wind farms are more common than solar, it’s the other way around, with opportunities to put solar panels alongside wind turbines. One example is the Grand Ridge Energy Center in northern Illinois, also operated by Invenergy, which has 210 megawatts of wind, 20 megawatts of solar and 33 megawatts of energy storage.

The benefits of wind-solar hybrids start with a simple idea: Solar power is strongest when the sun is brightest, often in the middle of the day. Wind power is stronger at night in many areas of the U.S. By combining the two, a hybrid project has the potential to produce power around the clock. This is important because one of the challenges of managing a power grid is dealing with the intermittent nature of renewable energy.

More: Pairing wind + solar for cheaper, 24-hour renewable energy

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