Liquid air energy storage technology edges closer to commercialisation
A solution to one of the most pressing problems facing large scale wind power – how to store surplus energy when the wind is blowing and release it when the weather is calm – has edged one step closer to commercial realisation.
The technology, called liquid air energy storage, has been developed by UK firm Highview Power Storage. It works by taking electricity from the grid at peak times, such as on windy days, and using it to cool air until it liquefies at -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.
Highview has today signed a strategic partnership agreement with international industrial gases company, Messer Group, to commercialise the technology. Under the contract, Messer will receive exclusive rights to exploit the technology in its industrial gas markets in return for annual licensing fees to Highview. Highview will also have access to Messer's engineering expertise in gas liquefaction technology, a core part of the liquid air energy storage process.
"With our pilot plant built out and fully operational last year, signing our first commercial agreements was always the next key step," said Highview ceo Gareth Brett. "We now have specific feasibility studies and front end engineering work to undertake, but I am confident that we shall see the ground being broken for the first multi-MW plants next year."
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