One of the conundrums posed by the increasing expansion of wind power is what to do with the excess energy that renewable technologies produce. Because wind power is intermittent and demand for energy also varies, when wind turbines produce more electricity than is needed, their operations are often put to a halt and electricity that could be used is lost.
Capturing CO2 from the air
There is, however, a good way to pair that unused power with climate efforts aimed at removing carbon dioxide from the air. At least that’s what David Goldberg, a Lamont Research Professor at Columbia University, argues in a recent piece for The Conversation.
The expansion of renewables such as wind is essential to our transition towards greener energy sources. With that said, that transition is not happening at a fast enough pace to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to industrial levels.
Because we have emitted so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, we will also have to employ carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies to remove this greenhouse gas from the air and lock it away permanently.
Using excess wind power when it isn’t needed
But while CCS has become more common in recent years, the technology is still expensive and energy-intensive. According to Goldberg, offshore wind farms could offer a solution to this problem by powering the operation of CCS with excess wind energy.
As Goldberg explains, building direct air capture systems alongside offshore wind turbines, these carbon-sucking technologies would have an immediate source of clean energy from surplus wind power, enabling them to pipe captured CO2 into storage tanks beneath the seafloor below, reducing the need for extensive pipeline systems.
“Direct air capture is only beginning to be deployed on land, and the technology likely would have to be modified for the harsh ocean environment,” writes Goldberg. “But planning should start now so wind power projects are positioned to take advantage of carbon storage sites and designed so the platforms, sub-sea infrastructure, and cabled networks can be shared.”