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UK firm unveils liquid air energy storage solution for wind power

Energy storage system ready for commercial deployment after passing pilot test

Highview Power Storage’s liquid air energy storage technology could revolutionis
Highview Power Storage’s liquid air energy storage technology could revolutionise the wind industry

UK company Highview Power Storage has unveiled a system using liquid air technology to store surplus energy generated by large-scale wind farms and release it when the weather is calm. Under development for the past five years, it has just successfully completed a year-long pilot with a 350kW/2.5MWh Liquid Air Energy Storage (LAES) plant connected to the National Grid. The system, which is hosted by Scottish and Southern Energy at their Slough Heat & Power 80MW biomass plant, is now ready for commercial deployment.

Presented at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in London, the LAES system takes electricity from the grid at peak times, such as on windy days, and uses it to cool air until it liquefies at minus 196˚C. The liquid air can then be stored cheaply and safely until it is needed, when it is exposed to normal, ambient temperatures. The liquid immediately turns back into gas, expanding by 700 times, which is then used to turn a turbine and feed electricity back to the grid.

Toby Peters, co-founder and chief operating officer of Highview Power Storage said the system will fill a big gap in the market.

He said: “Today we are seeing urgent demand for a large scale energy storage which can be deployed where pumped hydro is not viable.”

Switching off turbines at times of high winds cost consumers GBP 24m last year and current energy storage solutions are proving insufficient, Peters said.

“Lithium ion batteries cannot be scaled up to hold large amounts of energy, while pumped hydro storage needs mountains nearby and billions of litres of water to be viable,” he said.

The LAES system can store a similar amount as a medium-sized pumped hydro plant and has no geographical constraints. Moreover it is one of only a few energy storage technologies which can be delivered today at the 50+MW scale with four or more hours of storage.

“Critically the system uses mature components so is ready to be deployed at commercial scale,” he added.