The UK firm Highview Power launched the world’s first gird scale Liquid Air Energy Storage (LAES) plant, with 5MW/15MWh energy storage capacity at Bury, UK. The LAES plant is developed in partnership with recycling and renewable energy company Viridor with over £8 million (~$10.6 million) funding from the UK government. The plant is a pilot project to evaluate LAES technology.
Commodity Inside View:
The mechanism behind the LAES technology is to turn air into liquid by cooling air to -196°C, which allows it to store in high-pressure tanks. The air can be stored for a few months, though dissipating slowly depending on tanks insulation. When the power is needed, the liquid air then heated which transform it back into the air to drive electricity turbines.
Given the recent surge in the importance of the energy storage, a number of energy storage solutions are at various stages of developments. Some are being in the process of commercialisation while others are at research stages.
LAES technology is getting more prominence compared to its competitors. For instance, in comparison with Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES), LAES plants neither dependent on geography nor requires large storage caverns to store air.
Currently, lithium-ion batteries and pumped hydro storage are the most common forms of energy storage. When it comes to efficiency, LAES is around 60 to 70% compared to Tesla’s battery energy storage system (installed in Australia) which is 88% efficient. However, the downside of battery energy storages system is that they can store energy for a few hours while becoming expensive for a longer supply.
Commodity Inside expects that LAES plants would be cheaper compared to battery storage system at large scale. There is massive potential for the LAES technology globally and can compete with alternative energy storage system due to its cost-effectiveness. Infrastructure for LAES is mainly made of steel and has a lifespan of 30-40 years compared to batteries which typically needed to be replaced after few years.
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