Construction has begun on the world’s largest liquid-air battery, which will store renewable electricity and reduce emissions from fossil fuel power plants.
The project near Manchester, UK, uses leftover green energy to compress air into a liquid and store it. When the demand is higher, the liquid air is released back into a gas, driving a turbine that returns the green energy to the grid.
The expansion of wind and solar energy is vital to cope with the climate emergency, but they are not always available. Storage is key and the new project will be the largest in the world outside of pumped hydroelectric systems, which require reservoirs in the mountains to store water.
The new liquid air battery, developed by Highview Power, will be operational in 2022 and will be able to power up to 200,000 homes for five hours, and store energy for many weeks.
Chemical batteries are also necessary for the transition to a zero carbon world and their price is plummeting, but they can only store relatively small amounts of electricity for short periods.
Liquid air batteries can be built anywhere, Highview CEO Javier Cavada said: “ Air is everywhere in the world. The main competitor is not really other storage technologies but fossil fuels, as people still want to continue building coal and gas plants today, strangely enough , “he said.
The UK government has supported the project with a £ 10 million grant. Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, Kwasi Kwarteng, said: “ This revolutionary new facility will be a key part of our drive towards net zero, bringing greater flexibility to the UK electricity grid and creating green collar jobs in the UK. Greater Manchester ”.
” It is likely that one or more of the medium and long-duration electricity storage technologies will be needed to fill a gap in the market, and liquid air energy storage (LAES) is there as an option, ” he said.
Pumped hydraulics are limited by the need for a reservoir on the mountain, while gravity storage – where a weight is lifted and then dropped to power a generator – is less developed, as is large-scale production of hydrogen from green energy.
The Highview battery will store 250MWh of energy, almost double the amount stored by the largest chemical battery, built by Tesla in South Australia. The new project is located in the Trafford Power Park, which is also home to the Carrington gas power plant and a closed coal-fired power plant.
The project will cost 85 million pounds, and Highview received 35 million pounds of investment from Japanese machinery giant Sumitomo in February. The liquid air coil has created 200 jobs, mainly in construction, and employing former oil and gas engineers, with a few dozen in continuous operation. The useful life of the plant is expected to be 30 to 40 years. “It will be passed on to the next generation ,” Cavada said.
Highview is developing other projects in the UK, continental Europe and the US, including in Vermont, but the Manchester project will be the first. ” The former is definitely the most important and that is why we really appreciate the British government’s bold move to use British technology to solve UK problems and then export the technology globally, ” said Cavada.