A British Company Finds a Cool New Way to Store Energy
PIlsworth can provide 15 MW hours of electricity through this use of LAES technology, which is enough to power around 5,000 homes for about three hours
GRID-SCALE LIQUID AIR ENERGY STORAGE TECHNOLOGY
How can air keep the lights on? It sounds like a riddle, but engineers at Highview Power in the United Kingdom think they may have found a solution. In spring of last year, Highview launched the world’s first grid-scale liquid air energy storage system (known as an LAES) at their Pilsworth plant. They were trying to solve a problem that’s been plaguing the renewable energy industry for years—how to store the energy provided by natural resources for times of the day when those natural resources aren’t always available?
The LAES is an interesting solution. When chilled down to minus 320 degrees F, air goes from gas to liquid. What Highview has pioneered is taking the energy sources in the form of air, like unused wind power, and freezing that air into a refrigerated liquid. The liquid air is then stored in insulated low-pressure tanks. When it’s needed, this now-liquid air is evaporated and sent into a turboexpander generator, manufactured by Baker Hughes GE. This machine is able to convert the liquid air energy storage into usable power. The turboexpander can work with any gas, so the oil & gas industry uses the LAES air technology for various other purposes, including oil recovery, oil refining, and power generation. How does the chilled air get warm again to become energy? The Pilsworth plant uses waste heat from a neighboring landfill gas power plant. Highview Power plans to operate future LAES units off excess heat produced by “peaker” power plants.
Currently, PIlsworth can provide 15 MW hours of electricity through this use of LAES technology, which is enough to power around 5,000 homes for about three hours, but the system has the ability to handle up to 300 MW, making it suitable for larger cities—and showing how far one “cool” idea can reach.
Read the full story at GE Reports.