Two British firms, Viridor Waste Management and Highview Power Storage, have been awarded over £8 million in government funding to develop liquid air-based technology for energy storage.
The announcement comes as UK public funders of low carbon innovation today provide enhanced investor certainty, with the publication of a joint Strategic Framework by the Low Carbon Innovation Coordination Group.
The contract has been awarded to the companies as part of the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s innovation competition to support energy storage technology research and development.
Cost-saving is a balancing act
The companies will use the funding to develop a technology to store air in a liquid format, which can then be used to supply electricity during times of high demand. The technology will be connected to the National Grid, and will be used to test balancing supply and demand using stored energy.
According to Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker, energy storage will become increasingly important in the move towards a low carbon economy. It also has the potential to save the energy system over £4 billion by 2050.
Gareth Brett, CEO of Highview Power Storage says that the Liquid Air Storage system will make a major contribution in terms of balancing electricity systems in the future.
Electricity on demand
Highview works to develop large-scale energy storage systems for utilities and power systems operators. Its liquid air energy storage plants can be designed with capacities from 5 megawatt-hours (MWh) to 1,000 MWh.
Highview uses a technology based on turning air to liquid, after chilling it to -196 degrees Celsius. By storing the liquid air in large vessels, Highview can use it to generate electricity on demand: Exposing the liquid air to ambient temperatures causes it to rapidly expand and turn back into a gas. This process can be used to drive a turbine to generate electricity.
Viridor operates over 320 facilities across the UK, transforming over two million tonnes of materials a year into recyclate and into over 760 gigawatt hours of renewable energy.
Innovative and sustainable
Viridor Chief Executive, Ian McAulay says that with ever growing pressure on natural resources, it is essential that innovative and sustainable methods are developed to generate and store energy. This will not only downsize the carbon footprint but it will also ensure long-term energy security.
Currently in the UK, almost all electricity is generated when required and networks are designed to accommodate highest demands, even if they are of very short duration.
This innovative energy storage system has the potential to play a key role in supporting UK growth in low carbon, renewable energy sources and in maintaining the country’s security of electricity supply.
Advanced energy storage-an obvious solution
One of the biggest issues with renewable energy is its irregularity. Wind and solar power do not always generate electricity when we need it, or generate more power than we need at that moment. Advanced energy storage technologies are an obvious solution this issue.
As the level of renewable generation is increased in the UK, new challenges in matching supply to demand will need to be dealt with. In order to manage unpredictable energy generation, innovation and investment in energy storage will have to be prioritised.