Wind-hydro hybrid would produce seamless power, regardless of environmental factors

16 MW of hydropower combined with 13.6 MW of wind power

Any Way the Wind Blows (It Doesn’t Really Matter)

As anyone who’s ever tried to fly a kite knows, wind is nothing if not changeable. As a source of renewable energy, wind power is clean and cheap, but not always consistent. However, a recent collaboration between European engineers and GE could change all of that.

In March of 2016, Max Boegl Wind AG, a German firm approached GE Renewable Energy with the idea to create the world’s first onshore wind farm with an integrated hydropower plant. Their theory? That when the wind blows, the wind turbines will generate electricity, but when it stops, the hydropower plant will act as a giant battery that will then discharge. This combination of wind and hydro power would produce seamless power, regardless of environmental factors.

But these aren’t just any wind turbines. Not only will they be the tallest in the world (584 feet high), their base will double as a water reservoir. The pilot project will consist of four wind turbines to be connected to the grid by the end of this year, and their hydro counterparts should be up and running by the end of 2018. 

Leading the Way in Combining Wind & Hydro Power

Here’s how it works: water flowing downhill from the reservoirs will power the hydro plant when electricity is needed. When there’s an energy surplus, the hydro power will push the water back up the hill to the reservoirs, where it will act as a giant battery. Thus, the hydro plant will be able to make power when the prices are high and use power when they are low, complementing the grid as well as the wind turbines. Electricity will always be flowing from the plant, thanks to the work of both the wind turbines and the hydro turbines.

The German project is the first of its kind to combine hydro power with wind power and the team behind the farms found an ideal location: the Swabian-Franconian Forest, which has the exact hilly topography required for a project such as this. And it’s not just the geography that’s apropos: “Germans in this area are known as tinkerers and inventors,” says Cliff Harris, GE Renewable Energy’s general manager for onshore wind in EMEA. “So the mentality of this technology really fits with the population.”

The hydroelectric portion of the project can produce 16 MW, while the onshore wind farm on its own can produce 13.6 MW (3.4 per wind turbine). If it proves to be successful, Boegl can do one or two extra projects a year—and just in case you’re wondering, the hydro reservoirs can be salt water, too, which greatly expands the possibilities.

Learn more about GE’s wind & hydro technology that is used on this power plant and similar projects.

Read the full story on GE Reports.