The world’s first grid-scale liquid air energy storage (LAES) facility opened in Bury on Tuesday (5 June) in a move that could stimulate the market for long-duration energy storage technologies.
The 5MW LAES plant at the Pilsworth landfill gas site in Bury was developed through a partnership between Highview Power and Viridor and was backed by £8m in Government funding.
Aggregator KiWi Power will be able to draw power from the plant, which has an energy generation of 15MWh. The technology works by cooling air to turn it to liquid form, storing it in high pressure tanks and then pumping and heating it to gas form which is then used to drive a turbine to generate electricity.
While the LAES plant can draw energy to power 5,000 homes for around three hours, those involved in the project believe it could act as the next wave of storage technologies, currently dominated by battery solutions, for its ability to last for around 40 years. The project developers claim the LAES plant could “easily” store enough electricity to power a 100,000-home town like Bury for “many days”.
KiWi Power’s chief executive Yoav Zingher said: “LAES technology is a great step forward in the creation of a truly de-centralised energy system in the UK allowing end-users to balance the national electricity network at times of peak demand.
“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 at Bury also converts waste heat to power using heat from the onsite landfill gas engines and no carbon emissions are released. The plant has a lifespan of up to 40 years, far outweighing the average 10-year lifespan of batteries. At the end of life, the plant can be decommissioned, and its steel assets recycled.
Highview Power estimates that 60% of the global energy storage market comprises long-duration, grid-connected storage and that LAES technology is ready to meet 45% of that demand.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance states that the global storage market will grow to around 125GW by 2030, attracting more than $100bn in investment as a result.
The UK’s storage sector is booming, with new installations expected to help create savings for the UK to the tune of £8bn by 2030. This includes the UK’s largest portfolio from renewable energy provider Anesco, which announced proposals to bring 185MW of energy onto the grid earlier this year.
Commenting on the plant launch in Bury, BEIS’s chief scientific advisor Professor John Loughhead, said: “The deployment of smart, flexible technologies, such as energy storage, will help to ensure the UK has a secure, affordable and clean energy system now and in the future in keeping with the priorities within UK Government’s Modern Industrial Strategy.”