World’s first liquid air energy storage facility launches in Bury

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.

Storage boon

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.”

Matt Mace

Comments (10)

  1. Trevor Smith says:

    Wholesale electricity price varies over a 24 hour period by perhaps GBP 30 per MW-h, so you might earn GBP 450 per day by ‘time-shifting’ 15 MW-h multiply by 365 days annual revenue GBP 164,250 even with zero operating and maintenance cost you’d wait 48 years to pay back your GBP 8 million investment

  2. Richard Young says:

    Well done all, excellent project. Obviously this is about prolonging the availability of clean, renewable, ZERO WASTE power NOT, repeat NOT generating for greedy shareholders and investors and the REAL return on capital employed here, as with all renewables, will be a cleaner planet where our children and grandchildren can breathe clean air and see the demise of ocean acidification.

  3. Keiron Shatwell says:

    Be interesting to see how this works over the next year or so to see how viable this kind of technology could be for longer term energy storage, talking multiple days rather than just a few hours.

    Curious as to why they went with liquified air when just compressed air would do the same? Given jet engine turbines work happily at -50C it’s not beyond engineering to build a compressed air turbine/generator that could cope with the reduced temps associated with expanding gases. Then you are not having to worry about having a potential heat source involved.

  4. Trevor Smith says:

    Liquid air stored at 10 bar, -167 C has a density of 732 kg/m3 . To achieve the equivalent density with 20 C compressed air you need 158 bar; failing that, to store at lower pressures you need LARGE volume pressure vessels. Also when you compress air it gets very hot and when you expand it gets very cold: T2=T1*(P2/P1)^(2/7) with T in Kelvin which makes it very difficult to achieve a good ’round trip’ storage efficiency – heat losses during ‘charging’, which you have to make good when you ‘discharge’ later on. Viridor are in an unusual and transient position in that they have waste heat from their landfill gas engines to heat the liquid nitrogen in what is basically a Rankine cycle. NEW landfill is ‘discouraged’ from accepting the organic materials which decompose into the 2/3 methane : 1/3 CO2 called landfill gas and the UK government has ended the ROC scheme for new entrants which incentivised landfill gas to electricity generation in the past

  5. Keiron Shatwell says:

    Trevor – thanks for explaining the physics of the warming/cooling part of the compressed air system. I knew about the pressures involved as that’s basic Boyles Law (P1V1=P2V2). 158bar is not ridiculous and pressure vessels already exist to handle that and more so the engineering there isn’t a problem.

    If there was a way to capture the heat of compression, perhaps heating the facility or nearby social facilities, then a water source heat pump from the sea or large river providing the heat to warm the expanding air to a suitably warm enough temp for "jet engine turbo fans" to deal with could this work?

    I guess what is needed is a proper integrated solution rather than looking at bits and pieces

  6. Trevor Smith says:

    Keiron the fundamental issue is you can convert work to heat with 100% efficiency but not vice-versa. Despite the obvious incentive to offer a more efficient product and after decades of development, industrial air compressors STILL require about 7kW of electricity to produce the air to drive a 1 kW air tool … just search the phrase "compressed air most expensive utility

  7. Keiron Shatwell says:

    Trevor – yes that is inefficient. Bit like using electricity to crack Natural Gas to get Hydrogen to burn to heat our houses really.

    So let’s say we go with the liquified air storage route as in this article how can it be made more efficient? Or alternatively how can landfill gas be replaced to provide heat or energy? Is this where using water sourced heat can fill the gap?

    I think this kind of energy storage is far better for long term storage than trying to do it with chemical batteries so I am interested in how this facility gets on.

  8. Trevor Smith says:

    Keiron as far as I can see you are always going to need a ‘free’ / waste heat source to warm up the liquid nitrogen so the source could be any existing industrial process – provided it would be producing the heat anyway. But it has to be done at an economic cost, because you won’t get ANY support – by the same twisted logic that air source heat pumps are subsidised but not the (far easier to recover) heat from a factory chimney stack

  9. Keiron Shatwell says:

    Trevor – yes sometimes the logic behind some of the "green" decisions and financing does baffle me. Don’t get me started on solar panels in Scotland 🙂 Thanks for the discussion and enlightening a humble Geologist on this subject

  10. Keiron Shatwell says:

    Trevor – after reading the article on the "sunken data centre" are we missing a possible source of heat energy for warming these liquid energy stores?

    Given the amount of cooling these data centres require to stop the computers melting and our massive appetite for data could combining these two very different industries actually "kill 2 birds with 1 stone".

    Just a thought

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