Latest ‘green tech’ scheme: How liquid air could help keep the lights on

Posted: October 23, 2019 by oldbrew in Energy, innovation, News, wind
Tags: , ,

CRYOBattery plant (model) [credit: Highview Power]

The fact that this kind of thing gets touted at all says a lot about the state of electricity generation in today’s trace-gas-fearing climate obsessed world. They talk of a ‘carbon free future’, but ignore the reality that world demand for oil, coal and gas is rising year on year as prosperity spreads around the globe and populations continue to increase.

It sounds like magic but it is real – a plan to store cheap night-time wind energy in the form of liquid air, reports BBC News.

Here is how: you use the off-peak electricity to compress and cool air in a tank, so it becomes a freezing liquid.

When demand peaks, you warm the liquid back into a gas, and as that expands it drives a turbine to create more electricity.

The technology, created by a backyard inventor, is about to hit the big time.

It has been tried at small scale but now the firm behind it, Highview, has announced that a grid-scale 50MW plant will be built in the north of England on the site of a former conventional power plant.

The technology has been supported by the UK government. One attractive feature is that it uses existing simple technology developed for storing and compressing liquefied natural gas (LNG), so unlike battery storage it does not require mining for rare minerals.

The key innovation is to store the excess heat given out when the air is compressed and use it to re-heat the liquified air when it is needed.

The idea was promoted by self-taught engineer Peter Dearman from his garage in Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire.

He had been developing a car run on similar principles with liquid hydrogen and saw the potential for applying the technology to electricity storage.

He is now a passive shareholder in Highview, which is hoping to play in the big league of storage.

He told BBC News: “It’s great news – very exciting. There’s such a lot of potential in these technologies.”

Full report here.

  1. oldbrew says:

    Keeping the lights on is a minor issue. Keeping the country’s economy functioning despite guess-when part-time variable strength wind power would be good.

    When demand peaks, you warm the liquid back into a gas
    Requires energy input – see video (added to blog post).

  2. ivan says:

    Yet another con job to get taxpayers money. The green blob never gives up, it is just one con after another, maybe if they paid for it themselves without ant public funding we might see the end of this dive to take the country back to the dark ages, but they forget that means no electricity which leads to no smartphones, no heating or cooling, no supermarkets (you grow your own in the garden you don’t have), no transport unless you own a horse, the list goes on.

    With this con, where does the energy come from to make the liquid air when the wind isn’t blowing, which is when you need the backup generators? It would be better if they improved on the HELE system of using coal to fire the boilers to make steam to turn the generators, but then again it isn’t something you can knock up in your garage and sell to the green blob.

  3. JB says:

    I still have certificates of several hundred shares in a start-up failure. I keep them as a memento, and evidence of what the author who wrote “How to Make a Million Dollars in the Mail-Order Business” said. 90% of startup businesses fail within the first 2 years, and never attempt to draw a salary from the venture for 3. The one I joined lasted for 6, when the Berlin Wall came down and the economy in continental Europe crashed, causing a glut in the market. I was out of work and the family homeless for 3 years.

    Now more than ever, entrepreneurs are feasting at the government’s trough to make their scheme’s run long enough to cash in and move on. I spent more on repairs to Iaccoca’s publicly financed K car than any other car I’ve owned.

  4. Curious George says:

    “The key innovation is to store the excess heat given out when the air is compressed and use it to re-heat the liquified air when it is needed. The idea was promoted by self-taught engineer.”

    Yes, yes, hooray! Let’s store the excess heat – we will have to compress it to store it effectively. The heat compression is a promising area for self-taught engineers.

    Efficiency 60-75 %? I’ll believe it when I see it. At least, they are only building one pilot plant, good for them.

  5. p.g.sharrow says:

    I remember researching this concept in the late 1970s. What a wonderful sinkhole for money and energy! For a guaranteed waste of resources this is top of the line if that is what you are after.

    Why do people come up with these things all the time when real solutions are available?

    “The idea was promoted by self-taught engineer Peter Dearman from his garage in Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire.”

    I wonder if Dearman can do a simple energy spread sheet? Maybe he is counting on OPM to makeup for all the losses…pg

  6. oldbrew says:

    a plan to store cheap night-time wind energy

    What about storing some of that cheap daytime wind energy we keep hearing about, when demand is low? Or use it to build more liquid air plants 🤩

    And no more constraint payments.

  7. stpaulchuck says:

    another perpetual motion machine

    Well here’s some places America blew hundreds of millions on nothing not to mention the windmill subsidy farms and snow covered solar arrays up here in Minnesota. You’ll recognize some of these from the media.
    List of 36 failed Obama green energy companies
    Evergreen Solar ($25 million)*
    SpectraWatt ($500,000)*
    Solyndra ($535 million)*
    Beacon Power ($43 million)*
    Nevada Geothermal ($98.5 million)
    SunPower ($1.2 billion)
    First Solar ($1.46 billion)
    Babcock and Brown ($178 million)
    EnerDel’s subsidiary Ener1 ($118.5 million)*
    Amonix ($5.9 million)
    Fisker Automotive ($529 million)
    Abound Solar ($400 million)*
    A123 Systems ($279 million)*
    Willard and Kelsey Solar Group ($700,981)*
    Johnson Controls ($299 million)
    Schneider Electric ($86 million)
    Brightsource ($1.6 billion)
    ECOtality ($126.2 million)
    Raser Technologies ($33 million)*
    Energy Conversion Devices ($13.3 million)*
    Mountain Plaza, Inc. ($2 million)*
    Olsen’s Crop Service and Olsen’s Mills Acquisition Company ($10 million)*
    Range Fuels ($80 million)*
    Thompson River Power ($6.5 million)*
    Stirling Energy Systems ($7 million)*
    Azure Dynamics ($5.4 million)*
    GreenVolts ($500,000)
    Vestas ($50 million)
    LG Chem’s subsidiary Compact Power ($151 million)
    Nordic Windpower ($16 million)*
    Navistar ($39 million)
    Satcon ($3 million)*
    Konarka Technologies Inc. ($20 million)*
    Mascoma Corp. ($100 million)

  8. gbaikie says:

    I got idea/invention of how to lift 1000 ton rockets to space using liquid air and hot water- I call it a pipelauncher.
    So, I can understand the usefulness powering something with liquid air.
    One aspect is that liquid oxygen and nitrogen is quite cheap- because it doesn’t cost much to extract them from atmosphere, and chill and compress it.
    The cheapness of liquid Oxygen also make rocket fuel cheap- because rocket by weight can be be mostly LOX. Or LH2 and LOX has 6 times the mass being Liquid Oxygen. And Kerosene and LOX is about 3 times mass being LOX.

    Anyways you convert Liquid Air into air, even with cold water. And it’s “explosive”.
    But for energy production I would use natural gas, which mostly make water steam and some CO2. And in many respects natural gas is better than burning coal.

  9. PG S a more apt question is why do stupid public servants accept crap like this and dole out public money. Firstly, they should not be allowed to make decisions on technical matters which are the preserve of Professional Engineers (in Qld Aust there is a Professional Engineers Act that makes it a criminal offence for anyone supplying an engineering service when not registered which in turn requires at minimum a 4 yr course in engineering at a recognised University eg Cambridge and 5 years practical engineering experience before you get to an interview) BTW I am a registered Chemical Engineer, I also have additional economic qualifications with a MBA
    The proposed project contains considerable Chemical Engineering and should only be approved by a registered Professional Chemical Engineer. Anyone in the Public service who is not a chemical engineer and approves such a project should be sentenced to jail.

  10. oldbrew says:

    stpaulchuck says: October 23, 2019 at 8:09 pm
    – – –
    More largesse for EVs, hybrids etc. here…

    Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) Loan Program is a $25 billion direct loan program funded by Congress in fall 2008 to provide debt capital to the U.S. automotive industry for the purpose of funding projects that help vehicles manufactured in the U.S. meet higher mileage requirements and lessen U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

  11. It doesn't add up... says:

    The designs that Highview are promoting tell us most of what we need to know. The system is designed to provide only a few hours of storage for several reasons:
    If the storage can be cycled daily, then it has 365 opportunities a year to make money: bigger stores can only be cycled fewer times (and seasonal stores just once per year), raising their effective cost of energy redelivered.
    In a daily cycle you have to allow for the time taken to charge up the system, which will be of the order of the discharge time divided by the round trip efficiency (excluding “free” regas heat from the calculation of efficiency). You also need to be sure that there is a margin between the cost of the energy used to charge the system and the value obtained for energy supplied, limiting charging to off peak hours.
    Longer periods of storage may be technically feasible, but heat leakage will eat into effective efficiency, requiring the system to be topped up with additional cooling.
    As Paul points out, the storage requirements for avoiding wind farm curtailment soon look puny. At 1.2GW, Hornsea wind farm could only store a sixth of its output into a 200MW/1.2GWh system for six hours overnight at times of strongish winds. It has no incentive to do so when it can secure prices of over £200/MWh for curtailment instead.
    This technology reaches a new benchmark for a levelized cost of storage (LCOS) of $140/MWh for a 10-hour, 200 MW/2 GWh system.
    So long as you have 10 hours a day of off peak cheap electricity, and a guaranteed daily price cycle margin that allows you to compete at $140/MWh. Dinorwig mostly has to survive on much lower peak prices, and on average uses only about 70% of its 9.1GWh storage capacity per day. Of course, there are other services that can earn revenue. Although it’s not new (October 2016), this paper by David Newbury does give some useful background on storage options and the competition from flex generation and interconnectors. It doesn’t consider a high renewables world, when interconnectors may prove to be more damaging than helpful, by creating a wide market during energy shortages (with a threat of widespread blackout) and therefore extreme peak prices, and during major surpluses when prices could go strongly negative.

    Click to access 1626-Text.pdf

  12. michael hart says:

    If the process was genuinely economic then they could simply sell the product and compete directly with BOC and Air Liquide. But it isn’t, and they won’t.

  13. Gamecock says:

    ‘He had been developing a car run on similar principles with liquid hydrogen and saw the potential for applying the technology to electricity storage.’

    ‘When demand peaks, you warm the liquid back into a gas, and as that expands it drives a turbine to create more electricity.’

    What could go wrong? [I hope he has his will is up to date.]

    ‘By Roger Harrabin’

    Ahhh. THAT Roger Harrabin. He doesn’t understand a thing he is saying. Just parroting a press release.

  14. Philip Clark says:

    Doubtful if the proponents and the technically unsophisticated government have any real idea about the actual economics of what they are proposing. Or are they relying on government subsidised power prices?

    Phil Clark