How the Iowa Stored Energy Park Will Work

The Iowa Stored Energy Park, targeted for completion in 2011, will cost around $200,000 to $225,000 -- not including the cost of wind facilities.  See wind energy pictures.
2008 HowStuffWorks

As an energy source, wind has a lot of benefits. It's a renewable resource powered by our planet's furnace, the sun. It generates electricity without producing greenhouse gases.

And it isn't associated with toxic by-products such as mercury or radioactive waste.

Unfortunately, wind energy also has some drawbacks that have prevented widespread adoption. First, wind doesn't blow all the time, and sometimes it blows hardest when you need it the least. But what if you could store the excess energy created by wind farms so it could be used later?

That's the idea behind the Iowa Stored Energy Park(ISEP). In this case, the energy is stored as compressed air, and the storage unit is not a battery, but the Earth itself. It's not science fiction. In fact, the technology behind compressed air energy storage (CAES) has been around for many years, though it's receiving more attention from environmentalists and renewable energy experts in search of eco-friendly solutions to replace fossil fuels.

So how does it work? Read on to find out.