UK leads in cool technology – liquid air energy storage

Posted on Tuesday 1st July 2014

The world’s first research centre for Cryogenic Energy Storage at the University of Birmingham has established a five-year research chair appointment under the leadership of Professor Yulong Ding, the newly appointed Highview Power Storage/Royal Academy of Engineering Research Chair in Energy Storage.

The Royal Academy of Engineering and Highview Power Storage, the UK-based developer of large-scale long duration Liquid Air Energy Storage (LAES) systems, have teamed up to create and fund the new Chair to explore the limits of this emerging technology, which has the potential to drive the development of variable renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, thanks to its ability to convert excess/off-peak electricity into multi megawatts of stored energy. 

In Highview’s LAES process, ambient air is drawn from the environment where it is cleaned, compressed and liquefied at sub-zero temperatures; 700 litres of ambient air become one litre of liquid air. The liquid air can be stored in an insulated storage tank at low pressure for extended periods of time without significant losses. 

When power is required, liquid air is drawn from the tanks, pumped to high pressure and heated. This process produces a high-pressure gas, which is then used to spin a turbine which drives the generator to produce electricity. 

Highview’s technology can integrate waste heat or cold from industrial processes to increase the system’s overall efficiency to over 70%.

To support Professor Yulong Ding in his work as the new Chair of Cryogenic Energy Storage Engineering, Highview will relocate its 350kW/2.5MWh LAES pilot plant to Birmingham.

Gareth Brett, Chief Executive Officer of Highview Power Storage, explained: “The UK has a long history in the cryogenics industry and now has the opportunity to develop a solution for one of the world’s toughest problems, how to store energy at large scale. 

“Our system uses readily available components from mature industrial supply chains, and has no geographical constraints, meaning it can be deployed anywhere in the world. This is important as electricity networks are now focused on resolving the challenges of integrating larger levels of intermittent renewable generation, with storage playing a major role. California has already set a mandate for utilities to procure more than 1.3GW of storage by 2020.”

Professor Ric Parker CBE FREng, Chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Research and Secondment Committee and vice-President of the Academy, said: “Energy storage is one of the eight great technologies selected for fast-track development by the government for their potential to give the UK a technological and commercial advantage worldwide. It is predicted that novel energy storage could create £12 billion of new business revenue in the UK.

“Promoting innovation in pivotal technologies such as energy storage is part of the Academy’s continuing commitment to support the best research with the strongest impact on society.”

About his plans for the new chair, Professor Ding said: “My research will cover, in an integrated manner, materials, thermodynamic processes and cycles, storage components and devices, system integration and optimisation, and applications of cryogenic energy storage. My focus in the first three years will be on novel micro- and nano-structured composite materials for thermal energy (cold and heat) storage and high performance storage components and devices based on the new materials. The focus of the last two years of the appointment will be on system integration and optimisation. The eventual goal of my work is to keep the UK’s leading edge in the area of cryogenic energy storage and to facilitate industrial applications of the technology.”

Professor Richard A Williams OBE FREng, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, University of Birmingham, said: Energy storage is a key research area at the university.  We are delighted Professor Ding was appointed to this Chair, which also carries the inaugural Chamberlain Chair designation to mark an appointment of a strategic area of major societal importance.

Ends

Notes to editors

  • The RAEng Research Chairs. Research Chairs are full-time professorial appointments, in any engineering-related subject. The Chair holder (the Incumbent) is expected to develop and lead a prestigious research group, the members of which will be encouraged to publish the results of their research as widely as possible to gain international recognition both for themselves and for the group in which they are based. The LAES pilot plant, developed by Highview in 2010 in collaboration with SSE in Slough, has the capacity of storing and enough releasing electricity to supply 350 homes. The plant will be relocated to Birmingham to support the centre’s research.
  • Highview Power Storage Highview is a privately owned, award-winning technology company based in Central London, England. Highview has developed and owns the IP to a novel, large scale long duration Liquid Air Energy Storage (LAES) system using liquefied air as the storage medium.  During discharge, the system can simultaneously convert low grade waste heat into power, further increasing the overall efficiency by producing additional power.  For more information please visit, www.highview-power.com
  • University of Birmingham: The University of Birmingham is a truly vibrant, global community and an internationally-renowned institution. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than four thousand international students from nearly 150 different countries. The University is home to more than 28,000 students. With more than 7,500 postgraduate students from across the world, Birmingham is one of the most popular universities for postgraduate study in the UK.  
  • Royal Academy of Engineering. As the UK’s national academy for engineering, we bring together the most successful and talented engineers for a shared purpose: to advance and promote excellence in engineering.We provide analysis and policy support to promote the UK’s role as a great place  to do business. We take a lead on engineering education and we invest in the UK’s world-class research base to underpin innovation. We work to improve public awareness and understanding of engineering. We are a national academy with a global outlook.We have four strategic challenges: Drive faster and more balanced economic growth; foster better education and skills; lead the profession; promote engineering at the heart of society. 
  • For further information please contact Faye Jackson at the University of Birmingham press office on +44 (0)121 414 6029. For out of hours enquiries please contact the press office on +44 (0)7789921165