University of Birmingham research applied to build the world's first liquid air energy storage plant

On Tuesday 5 June the world’s first grid-scale liquid air energy storage (LAES) plant opened in Bury, Greater Manchester. The site, which acts as a large rechargeable battery will help the electricity grid cope with the increased uptake in renewable energy, which is often intermittent in its generation.

The plant works by soaking up excess wind and solar energy, compressing and cooling it to -196°C, transforming the air to a liquid state that can be stored. When the stored energy is required, it is pumped to a high pressure and heated by ambient heat, creating a high pressured gas that is used to rotate a turbine, which generates electricity. 

This five megawatt plant has the capacity to store 15 megawatt hours of electricity, enough to power an estimated 5000 average-sized homes for three hours. However, plant designer and builder, Highview Power have explained that this technology can be scaled up to hundreds of megawatts. 

The current LAES concept was invented by Professor Yulong Ding, holder of the Royal Academy of Engineering Highview Chair in Cryogenic Energy Storage, over 12 years ago. Subsequent development by Yulong and his team from the Birmingham Centre for Energy Storage has led to new ways to increase the round trip efficiency of LAES by ~9-18 % compared to current LAES systems.

On the day the Bury plant opened, Yulong was interviewed by Sarah Montague on the BBC Radio Four, World at One show. Sarah asked Yulong more about this technology and what would the future of the energy storage technology.

 You can listen to the interview using the player below.

Credit: BBC Radio 4 World at One, 5 June 2018, www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b4yzys

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