Storelectric has developed a process that makes the large-scale storage of power in salt caverns using compressed air commercially viable
A start-up firm that plans to build a 60-strong fleet of compressed-air energy storage plants in the UK has appealed for £5 million of funding to take it through the planning and design stages.
Storelectric said it has developed a process that makes the large-scale storage of power in salt caverns using compressed air commercially viable. The company plans to build a 20MW pilot plant, able to store up to 10GWh, at Northwich, Cheshire within two years, followed by a full-scale 500MW plant, able to store between 6 and 21GWh of power within five years.
Mark Howitt, director and co-founder of Storelectric, said the UK could eventually support “hundreds” of its full-scale Compressed Air Energy Storage plants, but that he envisaged 60 in the medium term. He said: “When we have enough of these we will be able to store all the energy in the country for a week. We are about turning intermittent power into baseload.”
The process works by compressing air to 70bar and storing it in salt caverns. When the power is required it is released and used to drive a turbine. The traditional drawback to this process is efficiency – heat is lost when air is compressed and needs to be put back into the air when expanding.
According to Howitt, the Storelectric plant will take the heat generated by the compression process, store it separately and reuse it during the expansion stage, making it 70% efficient. “That’s how we’ve cracked the heat and efficiency problem,” he said. “It can be built using the equipment and plant we have today.”
Howitt said the first plant will cost £400 million to build, dropping to £300 million for subsequent plants, “about the same as a gas-powered plant”.