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Home » UK group plans first large-scale liquid air energy storage plant

UK group plans first large-scale liquid air energy storage plant

Highview Power is attempting to raise £400mn to fund project with capacity to supply 600,000 homes

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UK energy group Highview Power plans to raise £400mn to build the world’s first commercial-scale liquid air energy storage plant in a potential boost for renewable power generation in the UK. Rupert Pearce, chief executive of the 17-year-old company, is aiming to wrap up Highview’s largest ever capital raising early next year to build a large-scale project near Manchester by the end of 2024. “We are raising a significant amount of money for the next two or three years,” the former boss of satellite giant Inmarsat said in an interview. “We’re looking for £400mn to take us through the next phase.” Highview Power plans to spend £250mn to construct a storage plant in Carrington that has a 30 megawatts capacity and can store 300 megawatt hours of electricity, enough to supply 600,000 homes with power for an hour. It already has a 5MW pilot plant operating in Pilsworth. The remaining £150mn would go towards engineering for a further four sites. Energy storage is vital for stabilising the grid as the share of the power mix from intermittent renewables grows. The UK generated almost 39 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources in the second quarter, up from 11 per cent a decade ago. The energy market has been volatile since Russia invaded Ukraine and cut off gas supplies to Europe. This has prompted a surge of interest in storage technologies that soak up excess electricity that comes from renewables and supply it back to the grid when needed. “If the wind blows and the demand isn’t there, then it can’t go anywhere. We have a structural necessity to bring in flexible demand for a long period of time,” said Pearce. Lithium-ion batteries can help solve that problem over the course of two to four hours but storage plants, which can hold power for longer and provide a stable supply of energy similar to coal and gas plants, are needed to help the UK achieve its net zero goals. Pumped hydro storage is a mature solution for longer duration energy storage but is hostage to geography. “We need big electricity warehouses — imagine storing a day’s worth of solar-generated electricity — and we also need big doors on the warehouse, so we can meet those peak demands,” said Anthony Price, managing director of Swanbarton, an energy storage consultancy, and secretary of Flow Batteries Europe, a trade body. “Liquid air energy storage fits into that category.” LAES works by cooling and compressing air into a liquid form that is stored at low pressure in insulated tanks. The liquid air is then blasted through heat exchangers, and the high-pressure gas is used to power turbines to create electricity when needed. But the loss of energy with LAES is also relatively high with a so-called “round-trip” efficiency of 50-55 per cent, although its proponents hope to push this up to 70 per cent against 80 per cent for lithium-ion batteries. Highview Power, which has received £20mn of UK government money and claims to hold more than 200 patents, wants to spend £10bn on 20 sites in the UK and to enter the Australian market during the next decade. Sumitomo SHI FW has invested $46mn in Highview Power and holds a licence for its technology with plans to enter into the Indian, Middle Eastern and European markets. However, long duration energy storage is becoming increasingly competitive, with about 60 providers working on this technology and demand-side solutions such as smart meters evolving rapidly. Chunping Xie, senior policy fellow at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, reckons LAES, built at a very large scale, could be much cheaper compared to batteries. “The technologies will be expensive to begin with,” said Upma Koul, vice-president of strategy and business development at Sumitomo SHI FW. “Which of the technologies could take the major chunk of long duration energy storage? We don’t know.”

Source : FinancialTimes

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