Compressed Air Energy Storage : “CAES” as a concept has been around for many years.
Pic Sources: energystorage.org, phys.org
Government Funded CAES: could we go any slower….
The Glacial Pace of MWAmp Hour Storage: “Unicorns” & “Raptors” to the Rescue?
For the past 10+ years governments have been actively(?) sponsoring applied research and early commercialization efforts around the globe, working with Private and Public Power Generation Companies, together inventive small companies to deploy “CAES” solutions as a way to temporarily store energy from Wind Farms and other forms of power generation, to later release and drive impellers connected to generator systems sending electricity back to the grid or the local enterprise.
The benefits to the Utilities is enormous, as they can distribute energy storage at remote generation facilities to temporarily store production electricity as pressurized gaseous substances in stable, safe low cost storage facilities for release when it is needed locally or even regionally, deliverinng electricity to the source of use for much less, without the need to upgrade the current grid. It all promises to be good! Now who are the leading technical “unicorn” or “raptor” companies looking to change the CAES playing field for the better? read on….
Three “CAES” boleros? : LightSail, Isentropic, Sustainx-
MW Amp Hour Storage Installed Anywhere! Super Low Cost…
|These Unicorn Raptor Companies offer the hope of a lower cost energy future, starting in 2016….
Until recently the constraint has been largely geographic, where it has been proposed by several large companies and start-ups to use existing man-made underground facilities (mines, abandoned underground military facilities, defunct subway lines, etc..,). Now there are new solutions available for CAES with no geographic constraints which can be built at low cost with commonly available materials. Companies like Lightsail Energy Storage (Canada/USA- Bill Gates Funded), Isentropic (UK/Govt/Utility) and Sustainx (USA/NREL spin off) are the first of three “CAES” vendors which come to mind.
Water, Spray and Foam: Pressure & the Piston Engine is our friend, and old storage methods too..
SustainX: Re-purposed Diesel as iCAES LightSail: A different Spin on Spray Pressure
Pics courtesy : LightSail Energy Copyright 2015 and the Wall Street Journal Copyright 2015
LightSail’s approach, uses water and spray under compression in tanks to drive re-purposed reciprocating engines is similar to SustainX using foam in their “iCAES” offering where the foam is stored in re-purposed gas line pipes or in shallow dugouts (old Oil storage tank bed will work).
Come on!: Gravel Batteries?- Isentropic UK shows us the way C(Argon)ES
pics courtesy : Isentropic UK copyright 2015
Isentropic takes another approach to “CAES” by compressing inert Argon gas to heat gravel batteries (stainless lined concrete, to be released on demand to drive piston engine driven electricity generators, where the uncompressed gas is directed to a cold storage tank for re-circulation.
All three methods have their merit, and with refinements are getting better efficiencies per cubic metre to help drive the price/performance down of each solution to be more than competitive with large scale NAS -” Sodium Sulphur” and REDOX flow batteries.
CAES as Entry Level Energy Storage? not…
Lithium Ion Batteries rule as of 2016… <8MW Amp hours…
The newcomers in next gen Lithium Polymer Batteries, Electrovaya will start to dominate the 2-8MW Amp Hour energy storage market where these larger new CAES systems can’t go because of the economies of scale needed to hit the price/performance ratios needed to offer a viable ROI in a 15 year useful life. (Electrovaya is rapidly gaining interest with new market wins based on their introduction of their own 2nd generation Li-Polymer batteries using recently acquired high temperature, super stable Ceramic Separator from Evonik through Electrovaya’s acquisition of Litarion in March of 2015). Electrovaya’s production of Nextgen Li-Polymer commenced October 2015, and their new cells are shipping to other Battery Fabricators right now in 2016.
Sidenote : Pragamtist or “NIH” ilist? Tesla and Elon Musk: Big Battery Quandry
“Give me that old time Lith-ion !” not…. (or Supersize my factory please?)
Who knows maybe even Tesla will license Electrovaya Technology, hopefully Elon Musk, who seems very pragmatic, stays away from the NIH “Not Invented Here” philosophy of many early market companies and sets giant battery engineering egos aside to guide Tesla Batteries to the logical conclusion, that is: big drying ovens to gas-off the roll-to-roll “R2R” process of sandwiching wet cathode and anode pastes to a separator is a waste of space, time, equipment and power consumption expensive, not to mention the resulting flat prismatic battery cell material produced has 50% less power density. Electrovaya has got it right and Tesla would be well advised to take a closer look at their sourcing, and maybe double the capacity of their Giant 1 GWAmp hour/year Gigafactory into a 2GWAmp hour/year factory using Electrovaya Technology and avoid buying all that old expensive R2R technology.
Thus, don’t look for “CAES” solutions to be used in smaller scale electrical generation and storage facilities for some time, until automated production and injection moulding takes over the production of the spray water/foam adapted ICE “Internal Combustion Engines” used in the Lightsail and SustainX solutions. The fact is these three solutions need alot of real estate and their “ROP” Rest of plan costs only make sense in 8MWAmp Hour sizes and larger.
The Three “CAESboleros” to the rescue?: Lightsail, Isentropic, SustainX
The Wind Farm “poor ROI” Fix with an “NG Twist”
Wind farms have long been under performers in the ROI category for investors for several reasons. In unregulated markets where the regulator buy price varies with electricity demand, often driven by user power consumption behaviour but also driven by generation, transmission, distribution maintenance downtime and storm induced break-downs, CAES offers the most promise. CAES when integrated with NG “Natural Gas” driven “ICE” Internal Combustion engines, especially of the OP “Opposed Piston” type (Fairbanks Morse, Ecomotors, Achates Power) creates a nice balance between storage and asynchronous hybrid generation (Wind and combustion engine) to deliver the best Wind Farm ROI possible and resurrect under performing Wind Farm assets into real investor gains.
Licensing the Future Business Model of CAES : Go 2 Market G2….
CAES deployments require much capital expenditure up front, something Unicorn and Raptor companies simply don’t have enough of. Witness SustainX, with good NREL “National renewable Energy Labs” spin off technology, and big supply partners like MAN (Diesel engine and truck manufacturer) , yet not really enough money to go it alone, so licensing of their IP becomes paramount to survive and thrive into the future. The same can be said about Lightsail and Isentriopic. Maybe the Wall Street hero Bill Gates will help change that, we can only hope, because the VCs have certainly not got the job done in the past 10 years and they need the really BIG money to step in and drive CAES forward.
Mini-Wind Farms, CAES and ICE:
The Recipe for MW Wind Farm Future Success (and profitability rescue)
At Starwind5, we help Wind Farm developers/Owners & Operators get it right with Starwind5 Small Wind Farm integration and storage to return MW Wind Farms to profitability fast , to create a balanced hybrid generation and energy storage facility with excellent returns regardless of the choice of Energy Storage (CAES or Li-Polymer) used or the type of Natural Gas fired ICE “Internal Combustion Engine” generated electricity employed.
Here’s to a Low Cost Energy Future! 🙂