London firm Highview Power switched on the world’s first grid-scale liquid air energy storage system on June 5 at a plant located at the Pilsworth landfill gas site in Bury, England.
The 5MW/15MWh plant is the first operational demonstration of LAES technology at grid-scale, and will be used to demonstrate how the technology can provide a number of reserve, grid balancing and regulation services.
The system, which has a life span estimated at 30 to 40 years, was designed and built by Highview in partnership with renewable energy company Viridor and enabled in part by more than £8 million ($11 million) in funding from the UK government.
Demand response aggregator KiWi Power will now draw energy from the plant to power around 5,000 homes for around three hours.
Gareth Brett, CEO at Highview Power, said utilities from around the world had been assessing the technology and were now using the operating data to assess its grid-scale abilities.
He said: “The adoption of LAES technology is now underway, and discussions are progressing with utilities around the world who see the opportunity for LAES to support the transition to a low-carbon world.
“We are therefore already in detailed negotiations to build plants ten times the size of this one for utility customers of several nationalities and for various different applications.”
The technology has the potential to be scaled up to hundreds of megawatts, with Highview claiming it could store enough power from wind farms to power around 100,000 homes for many days.
The system works by cooling air down to -196°C (-320˚F) until it turns to liquid, where it is stored in insulated, low-pressure vessels.
To access the power, the liquid is exposed to ambient temperatures that cause its rapid re-gasification and the energy from the 700-fold expansion in volume is used to drive a turbine and create power.
Yoav Zingher, CEO at KiWi Power, said: “By drawing energy from a diverse range of low-carbon storage assets, companies can not only balance the grid but help meet rising energy demand and respond to changing patterns of consumption on a local and national level.
“Given the high uptake of renewable energy in the UK this is the technology that will allow the future grid to maintain system inertia and ensure the lights stay on.”
The LAES plant also converts waste heat to power using heat from the on-site landfill gas engines.