Construction begins on the world's largest liquid-air battery, which will store renewable electricity and reduce carbon emissions from fossil fuel power plants.
The project near Manchester, UK, will use spare green energy to compress air into a liquid and store it. When the demand is higher, the liquid air is returned to a gas, feeding a turbine that returns the green energy to the grid.
A large expansion of wind and solar energy is vital to cope with the climate emergency, but they are not always available. Therefore, storage is key and the new project will be the largest in the world outside of pumped hydro schemes, which require a mountain reservoir 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 carbon-free world and their price is plummeting, but they can only store relatively small amounts of electricity for short periods.
What are liquid air batteries?
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, curiously, ”he said.
The UK government has supported the project with a grant of £ 10 million. Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, Kwasi Kwarteng, said: “This revolutionary new facility will form a key part of our drive towards zero grid, bringing greater flexibility to Britain's electricity grid and creating green collar jobs in Britain. Manchester.
"Projects like these will help us realize the full value of our world-class renewables, ensuring that homes and businesses can still be powered by green energy, even when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing," he said.
The UK government is urged to make the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic green. "We owe it to future generations to rebuild better," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said recently, while Chancellor Rishi Sunak is planning a "green industrial revolution."
Alex Buckman, an energy storage expert at the Energy Systems Catapult group, said polluting gas plants were the main way to balance the UK electricity grid. But a net zero carbon system would need more than 30% of today's renewable energy, and therefore more storage.
"There is likely a need for one or more of the medium to long-life electricity storage technologies to fill a gap in the market, and Liquid Air Energy Storage (LAES) is right there as an option." , He said. The pumped hydropower is limited by the need for a mountain reservoir, 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 fuel from green energy.
"The combination of being more developed and more scalable gives LAES the opportunity to be competitive, if they can show that they can reduce costs with greater scale," said Buckman.
An impressive storage capacity
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 Energy Park, which is also home to the Carrington gas power plant and a closed coal-fired power plant.
The project will cost £ 85m, and Highview received a £ 35m investment from Japanese machinery giant Sumitomo in February. The liquid air battery is creating 200 jobs, mostly in construction, and is employing former oil and gas engineers, with a few dozen in continuous operation. The useful life of the plant is expected to be 30-40 years. "It will pass on to the next generation," Cavada said.
Highview is developing other sites in the UK, continental Europe and the US, including Vermont, but the Manchester project will be the first. "The former is definitely the most important and that is why we really appreciate the UK government's bold move to use UK technology to solve UK problems and then export the technology globally," said Cavada.