You may have never heard about it, but compressed air energy storage (CAES) has been around for decades. A CAES plant was built in Huntorf, Germany, in 1978, whereas one other facility was developed in McIntosh, Alabama, in 1991. Each these developments use underground salt caverns to store air.
The PowerSouth Energy Cooperative operates the Alabama project. In response to PowerSouth, the McIntosh facility can generate up to 110 megawatts of electrical power “within 14 minutes of a start-up during periods of peak demand.”
The thinking behind CAES is relatively easy. U.K. based firm Storelectric, which is seeking to develop CAES projects, breaks the process down into several elements.
Firstly, electricity from the grid or a renewable supply is used to pressurize the air. That compressed air is stored at a high-pressure underground.
When it’s needed, the air is released, heated – in Alabama, natural gas is used to do that – after which expanded through a turbine to supply electricity. Storelectric says its course of gives choices that either negate or cut back the necessity for gas to re-heat air.
For its half, Storelectric is aiming to make its technology energy efficient, cost-effective, and versatile.
“You can’t store the air underground at much above ambient temperature,” Mark Howitt, CTO of the enterprise, instructed CNBC. “However compressing the air heats it as much as somewhere north of 650 centigrade,” he added.
Storelectric’s system, Howitt explained, extracts the heat of compression, stores it individually after which puts it again in during the expansion phase. He stated, “eliminates the gas burns and therefore eliminates the emissions.”
With renewable sources of energy set to grow to be increasingly vital in the planet’s power transition away from fossil fuels, energy storage techniques which are dependable and efficient will turn out to be prized assets.