The great question about wind is intermittency, and the great answer is energy storage. There are a number of energy storage technologies out there; I suspect the right storage mechanism will differ from region to region.

One of the most interesting storage options out there is pumped hydro. The concept is pretty simple: you build two reservoirs, one down low and one up high, connected by a pipe. In the pipe are energy-generating turbines. When you’re getting excess wind power, you can use it to pump water up to the top reservoir. When you’re not getting enough, you can drop water down the pipe through the turbines. This is, in effect, a kind of energy shock absorber. It buffers and stabilizes the energy from wind.

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For a simple and compelling introduction — arguing for the inclusion of pumped storage in a canal restoration project in Montana — see this great editorial by Montana Public Service Commission member Ken Toole.

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