The project near Manchester, U.K., will use spare green energy to compress air into a liquid and store it. When demand is higher, the liquid air is released back into a gas, powering a turbine that puts the green energy back into the grid.
A big expansion of wind and solar energy is vital to tackle the climate emergency but they are not always available. Storage is therefore key and the new project will be the largest in the world outside of pumped hydro schemes, which require a mountain reservoir to store water, The Guardian reported.
The new liquid air battery, being developed by Highview Power, is due to be operational in 2022 and will be able to power up to 200,000 homes for five hours, and store power for many weeks.
Chemical batteries are also needed for the transition to a zero-carbon world and are plummeting in price, but can only store relatively small amounts of electricity for short periods. However, liquid air batteries can be constructed anywhere, Highview Power’s chief executive, Javier Cavada said.
“Air is everywhere in the world. The main competitor is really not other storage technologies but fossil fuels, as people still want to continue building gas and coal-fired plants today, strangely enough,” he said.
For his part, Alex Buckman, an energy storage expert at the Energy Systems Catapult group, said polluting gas power plants were the main way the U.K. electricity grid was balanced. But a net zero carbon system would need more than the 30% renewable energy of today and therefore more storage.
“There is likely going to be a need for one or more of the medium-to-long duration electricity storage technologies to fill a gap in the market, and liquid air energy storage (LAES) is right up there as an option,” he said.
The Highview Power battery will store 250MWh of energy, almost double the amount stored by the biggest chemical battery, built by Tesla in South Australia. The new project is sited at the Trafford Energy Park, also home to the Carrington gas-powered energy plant and a closed coal power station.
Meanwhile, the liquid air battery is creating 200 jobs, mainly in construction, and employing former oil and gas engineers, with a few dozen in the continuing operation.
Also, the new electricity storage facility has been backed by £10 million of U.K. government investment.