Professor John Loughhead OBE FREng FTSE, Chief Scientific Advisor to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) formally opened Highview Power’s 5 MW Liquid Air Energy Storage (LAES) Plant on Tuesday 5th June 2018. The plant is located at the Pilsworth landfill gas site in Bury, near Manchester, and is the first operational demonstration of LAES technology at grid-scale, representing twelve years’ work by Highview Power.
Professor John Loughhead said: “We welcome the accomplishment of Highview Power, working together with their project site partner Viridor, to successfully build and operate this grid-scale liquid air energy storage technology demonstration plant.”
Gareth Brett, CEO at Highview Power, said: “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. 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.”
After 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 demonstrate how LAES can provide a number of reserve, grid balancing and regulation services. Yet the opportunity is far greater: 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.
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.
No exotic metals or harmful chemicals are involved and the process does not release any carbon emissions. 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. LAES plants can be located at the point of demand which makes them highly flexible and able to supply energy to help urban areas keep the lights on.
Highview Power says it is now in “advanced negotiations” with utilities for units ten times the size.