The UK is pioneering a new way of storing energy with the world’s first grid-scale liquid air energy storage plant.
The Pilsworth unit adapts to the era of renewable energy by acting like a giant rechargeable battery.
Highview Power’s Pilsworth Liquid Air Energy Storage (LAES) plant will act like a giant rechargeable battery, absorbing excess energy and releasing it when needed.
This is particularly useful with the rapid growth of renewable energy, which accounted for 29% of all electricity generated in the UK in 2017. It generates excess power when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing, but is not reliable in times of greatest demand.
Coal-fired power plants that normally catered for peak-hour electricity demand are shutting down, and National Grid, owner and operator of the electricity transmission grid, pays small gas and diesel generators to fill the gap.
LAES is another clean option, according to Gareth Brett, CEO of Highview Power, which developed the technology. ” LAES is possibly the only viable, long-lasting, and traceable energy storage technology available, ” he said.
The system, which was developed in collaboration with the University of Birmingham, has 33 patents and is cheaper than large-scale batteries. It is also more durable: the plants last up to 40 years and can be installed anywhere.
LAES works by cooling air down to -196 ° C, transforming it into a liquid that is stored at low pressure in insulated tanks. When energy is needed, liquid air is pumped under high pressure and heated. The result is a high-pressure gas that is used to drive a turbine and generate electricity.
The Pilsworth plant has a capacity of five megawatts and can store 15 megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity, enough to power around 5,000 medium-size homes for about 3 hours. A commercial-scale plant would have a capacity of 50 MW.
Sean McLoughlin, a renewable energy analyst at HSBC, said liquid air energy storage was a more “complex” version of compressed air energy storage, but it had the advantage of being more efficient, taking up less physical space.
The most common forms of energy storage today are lithium-ion batteries and pumped hydroelectric storage, but the increasing importance of solving the energy storage challenge has led to increased investment in other technologies.
The Highview system has already attracted the interest of potential customers, including Enel, the Italian utility company.
Gianluca Gigliuci, Director of Innovation in energy storage at Enel Green Power, said that storage technologies were necessary to ” allow renewable energy to be really reliable “.
“ These storage systems need durability, long life, flexibility and reliability. LAES from Highview is one of the most promising solutions we’ve seen . “
About 60% of the global energy storage market comprises long-term grid-connected storage, and LAES technology could satisfy nearly half, according to Colin Roy, president of Highview Power.
” There is a huge market [for LAES] around the world that we estimate at $15 billion a year, ” he said.
More information: Highview Power.