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£8 million boost for liquid air

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UK Government backs energy storage as “revolutionary” technology

The Government is to pay £8 million for the construction of a commercial-scale liquid air energy storage demonstrator.

The funding from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), has been awarded to energy technology company Highview Power and waste management company Viridor for the construction and operation of a 5MW/15MWh pilot plant by the middle of 2015.

Highview Power completed the development of the world’s first liquid-air energy storage (LAES) plant, a 3.5kW/2.5MWh demonstrator, in Slough, Berkshire, in 2011. That project was also funded by a £1.1 million government grant.

The next LAES demonstrator will be built at Viridor’s landfill site in Canterbury, Kent. In addition to providing energy storage, the LAES plant will also convert waste heat to power using heat from the on-site landfill gas engines.

The technology will be connected to the National Grid, and will be used to test the balancing of supply and demand using stored energy.

The funding was announced by Greg Barker, minister for Energy and Climate Change, at the Ecoconnect conference at the Institute of Mechanical Engineers in London. Barker described energy storage technology as “revolutionary” and a potential “game changer”. The Government estimates that the sector will contribute some £11.5 billion to UK GDP by 2050.

“Not only can energy storage support the generation of renewable heat and electricity and intermittent sources, but by storing electricity it can guarantee security of supply and reduce network costs. It can also be used by remote communities,” he said.

Addressing criticism that the government was failing to support the environmental technology sector sufficiently, Barker added: “This isn’t a Cinderella sector. It’s happening under the radar and we are giving it support.”

The LAES operates by using excess electrical energy to drive an air liquefier. The liquid air is stored in an insulated tank at low pressure, which functions as the energy store. When power is required, liquid air is drawn from the tank and pumped to high pressure. Ambient heat is applied to the liquid air via heat exchangers resulting in a phase change from liquid air to a high pressure gas which is then used to drive a turbine and generator.

Gareth Brett, chief executive of Highview Power, said: “By selecting to fund the demonstration of our Liquid Air Energy Storage system, DECC has given a British company a great opportunity to begin commercialising a home grown, innovative technology that has the potential to make a major contribution in terms of helping balance electricity systems in the future.

“The collaboration with Viridor will enable us to showcase the technology at larger scale, harvesting waste heat from landfill gas engines and demonstrating our readiness for deployment elsewhere.”

The Viridor-Highview LAES project was awarded funding under DECC’s “Energy Storage Technology Demonstration Competition”. The Competition was launched in October 2012 with a budget of up to £17m. The construction of three other smaller energy storage research projects has also been awarded funds as part of the competition.


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