Highview launches world’s first grid-scale LAES plant

VIDEO: British developer opens door to 5MW liquid air energy storage near Manchester

Highview Power has opened the world’s first grid-scale liquid air energy storage (LAES) plant near Manchester, northern England, that will help address challenges posed by rising energy demand and balancing the grid, according to the British developer.

The 5MW/15MWh plant, located at the Pilsworth landfill gas site, will become the first operational demonstration of LAES technology at grid-scale. It has been developed in partnership with recycling and renewable energy company, Viridor, and has been enabled in part by over £8m ($10.7m) in funding from the UK government.

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According to Highview , LAES technology can scale to hundreds of megawatts in line with the energy demand of urban areas the size of small towns up to large cities. This means that LAES plants could easily store enough clean electricity generated by a local windfarm to power a town like Bury (around 100,000 homes) for many days, not just a few hours.

“Support from government, our partners and our supply chain, has enabled Highview Power to successfully design and build the world’s first grid-scale LAES plant here in the UK,” said Gareth Brett, Highview chief executive.

“The plant is the only large scale, true long-duration, locatable energy storage technology available today, at acceptable cost. 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.”

Following the launch, demand response aggregator KiWi Power will be able to draw energy from the LAES plant to power about 5,000 average-sized homes for around three hours. The plant will also demonstrate how LAES can provide a number of reserve, grid balancing and regulation services.

Yoav Zingher, chief executive at KiWi Power 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.

“By investing in LAES technology companies will also be able to earn a predictable, annual, recurring revenue through the ancillary services with KiWi Power,” said Zingher.

LAES technology makes use of a freely available resource, the air, which is stored as a liquid and then converted back to a gas, involving an expansion process that releases stored energy, and this drives a turbine to generate electricity. In addition to providing energy storage, the LAES plant at Bury converts waste heat to power using heat from the on-site landfill gas engines, according to Highview.

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“No exotic metals or harmful chemicals are involved and the process does not release any carbon emissions,” it said. “The plant comprises mostly of steel, which has a lifespan of between 30 to 40 years, in comparison with 10 years for batteries. At the end of life, a LAES plant can be decommissioned and the steel recycled.”

“The market opportunity for LAES technology is exciting – we estimate that 60% of the global energy storage market comprises long-duration, grid connected storage and that our LAES technology is ready to meet almost half of this (45%),” said Brett.

The Highview boss added that his company is “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 global energy storage market will grow to a cumulative 125GW/305GWh by 2030, attracting $103bn in investment over this period. Utility-scale storage becomes a practical alternative to new-build generation or network reinforcement, especially for underutilized assets in some markets,” said Logan Goldie-Scot, head of energy storage analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “We expect energy storage to increasingly be used for longer durations over this period, providing such services as peaking capacity and renewable energy integration.”

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