Wind power has made incredible inroads into the U.S. energy system thanks to big, efficient machines standing hundreds of feet tall. But the future of wind power may be underground. In the abandoned mines and sandstones of the Midwest, compressed-air storage ventures are trying to convert the intermittent motions of the air into the kind of steady power that could displace coal.
Compressed-air energy storage plants use compressors to store electricity generated when it's not needed. The air, pumped into large underground formations, is like a spring that's been squeezed and when it's needed, it can deliver a large percentage of the energy that it received. The first and only such plant in the United States went online in 1991, and though the technology didn't take off, it did prove that it worked. And now, combining cheap wind energy and compressed-air storage could create a potent new force in the electricity markets.
Gopal R. Rao, Ph.D.
Web Science Editor
Materials Research Society(MRS)