Wind farm.The Notrees wind farm.Photo: Duke EnergyThey like to do things big in Texas, so it’s no surprise that the Lone Star state will launch the world’s largest wind battery storage project.

Duke Energy is not a Texas company, but it owns the aptly named Notrees wind farm in the Texas panhandle. The North Carolina power giant is teaming up with an Austin area startup called Xtreme Power to install a 36-megawatt battery at the 153-megawatt Notrees Windpower Project near Kermit, Texas.

That’s one big battery. Such technology is likely to become crucial as wind farms become ever larger but erratic suppliers of electricity to the grid. In wind-blown West Texas, the region’s massive turbine farms can generate more electricity than the grid can handle at some times while all but ceasing production at other times. That creates headaches for grid operators, and the ability to store wind energy and release it when needed would help smooth out the ebbs and flows of the electricity stream.

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“This system will store excess wind energy and discharge it whenever demand for electricity is highest — not just when wind turbine blades are turning. In addition to increasing the supply of renewable energy during periods of peak demand,” Duke said in a statement.

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Pacific Northwest grid operators will probably be watching the experiment closely. That region boasts abundant hydropower and huge wind farms, which has created situations when there’s a surplus of both wind and water power and insufficient capacity on transmission lines to offload the electricity. Batteries would help, though it probably would take huge banks of them to have a significant impact.

The federal government is obviously interested in the technology. The Department of Energy has thrown in $22 million for the project, with Duke matching the grant with another $22 million.

Duke and Xtreme plan to plug in the battery by late 2012. 

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