UK energy group Highview Power is in the process of raising £400 million (US$472 million/€455 million) for the construction of the world’s first commercial-scale liquid air energy storage (LAES) facility, as well as engineering for a further four sites, as the Financial Times reports.
To be built near Manchester in the north of England, the world-first storage plant will carry a cost of £250 million and be capable of storing 300 MWh of energy for a period of up to around 12 hours. This is significantly longer than the 2-4 hours typical of lithium-ion batteries that are somewhat more advanced in terms of commercial deployment, but significantly less than fuel-based low/zero carbon energy storage, such as green hydrogen or ammonia, or pumped hydro. The other £150 million is to be spent on groundwork for the other four sites.
LAES technology works on the basis of storing cooled, compressed air in liquid form and then releasing it to turn turbines. It currently works at around 50-55% efficiency, compared to the 80% of lithium-ion batteries, though technologists envisage increasing LAES’s efficiency to 70%. The new project will build on experience gained from Highview Power’s 5 MW pilot plant, also on the outskirts of Manchester, and has received £20 million of UK government money.
While not strictly combustion related, the development of the technology is interesting in understanding the wider energy sector, and may play a highly important role in grids around the world as more and more intermittent renewable power generation capacity is deployed.