Lithium-ion batteries are great. They power much of the world around us and are even in our pockets, powering our cell phones. But trying to scale the technology up for the grid and storing massive amounts of renewable energy is challenging – limited battery cell supply manufacturing, difficulty supplying enough rare earth metals and minerals to make the lithium-ion cells, and questions around longevity.

But what if there was another way? A method that used air to store energy? This could change everything. 

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In 2020 work was started on the first major plant that promises to store energy as liquid air. It will use surplus electricity from wind farms at night to compress air so hard that it becomes a liquid at -196° and be stored in something dubbed “cryo-batteries”, or air compressed batteries. Then, when there is a peak in demand during the day or month, the liquid air will be warmed so it expands. The resulting rush of air will drive a turbine to make electricity which can be sold back to the grid. This type of technology is not available in South Africa yet, but the mechanics of it are not a foreign concept and can easily be altered to fit our needs.

Source: Hackaday 

A backyard inventor called Peter Deermund devised this system. The UK government has provided a £10 000 000 grant to take this invention to a commercial scale. Mr. Deermund said that his invention is 60-70% efficient, depending on how it is used. That is less efficient than current batteries, but he said the advantage of liquid air is the low cost of the storage tanks, so it can easily be scaled up. Also, unlike batteries, liquid air storage does not create a demand for minerals that may become increasingly scarce as the world moves towards power systems based on a variable, renewable electricity. “Batteries are awesome for short-term storage,” Mr Deermund said “But they are too expensive to do long-term energy storage. That’s where liquid air comes in. ” Mr. Deermund is now a passive shareholder in Highview Power – one of the firms building the 50 mW plant. The 50 mW facility near Manchester, built in 2020, will store enough energy to power around 50 000 homes for up to 5 hours. This also cuts down on the waste that is created when batteries are depleted and can no longer be used. This is actually coming to pass which could be such a game-changer concerning green technology, the largest thing that has been lagging behind is being able to store the energy generated. We have significant advances in solar power, wind power, etc. But the issue is, where do you store all that energy? This could be one solution that can turn the economy to invest in a more green future. But liquid air? How does that even work? Excess renewable energy will be used. So the new Highview cryo-battery is sited at the Trafford energy park, on the site of a closed coal power station. The battery will store 250 MW of power, enough to power 200 000 homes for 5 hours. The battery should be operational in 2022. Liquid air batteries can be constructed anywhere. Gareth Brett, chief executive of Highview Power, tells us that Highview Power has been going since 2006 and they have been developing a new type of long-duration storage of energy system based around liquid air. It’s a unique approach to storing electricity. The key differentiator between a liquid air energy storage and a Lithium-ion battery is that the aforementioned system is a thermo-mechanical storage system, so it isn’t based on electro-chemistry and it’s not a “black box” type of technology. It comprises a bunch of industrial components that are proven, available from all large manufacturers, and is widely distributed throughout the industry. How does it work Start off with a big electrically powered refrigerator that takes ordinary air, cleans it up a little to take some impurities out, and refrigerates it until it gets cold enough to condense into a liquid. That condensed air is stored in large low-pressure tanks – the fact that the tanks are low-pressure means that they are also low cost, a very important feature of this technology. When you want the energy back, you take the liquid air from the tanks, pump it and add some heat (the heat can be from the ambient environment), making the liquid air evaporate, occupying 700 times as much volume as when it was a liquid. The work is then captured by a turbine as the liquid air evaporates back into a gas. The turbine powers a generator, which gives us the electricity back that we started off with. It’s a technology that scales really well, meaning that it’s a significantly larger scale than batteries, occupying a different part of the storage market. But, crucially, because the cost of empty tank space is quite low, the economics of the marginal cost of energy storage, favours long-duration systems using this technology, so it’s much cheaper to build large-scale long-duration systems than it would be with a battery. So they are not competing head to head with lithium-ion batteries, they occupy the short-duration space in the energy storage market. What they are going after here is the larger, particularly long-duration space in the energy storage market. That makes this technology ideal for filling in the gaps between the lack of output of intermittent renewable sources of energy like wind and solar, for many hours at a time. Thank you for reading this article. If you feel we have left out any important information or would like to contribute to this site and content, please get in touch with us by leaving a comment or emailing us. SOURCES Energy In Demand Undecided with Matt Ferrel on YouTube Highview Power Powermag

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