Could our most abundant resource – air – be the answer to South Africa’s energy problems?

UK Energy storage technology development company Highview Power Storage has built and tested the world’s first Liquid Air Energy Storage plant; and it could be the solution for South Africa’s energy problems.
Liquid Air Energy Storage (LAES) takes excess electricity from the grid at wrong times, such as during the night, and uses it to cool air until it liquefies at minus 196 degrees Celsius.
The liquid air can then be stored cheaply and safely until it is needed, when it is exposed to normal, ambient temperatures. The liquid immediately turns back into gas, expanding by 700 times, which is then used to turn a turbine and feed electricity back to the grid. The exhaust is cold air.
Critically, the system can be scaled to 100s of MWs of power and GWhs of storage, similar to medium scale pumped hydro, but without the requirement for mountains or large volumes of water.
Says Toby Peters, co-founder of Highview and COO, “Our pilot plant is fully operational on the UK grid and being tested for real-time peak shaving. It is delivering very high levels of performance reliability. The system is simple and uses mature components so is ready to be deployed at commercial scale. In fact our most exotic material is stainless steel.”
South Africa is regularly hit by power shortages as demand for electricity out-strips supply.
And with industry predicting power shortages to severely impact mining and steel production for several years to come, they are urgently looking for methods to protect security of supply.
Energy storage time shifts wrong time energy from intermittent renewables or must-run baseload plant to support times of peak demand. As Peters explains, “there is often enough electricity produced, but it is at the wrong time. This problem will only get worse as we deploy more intermittent renewables on our grids. Energy storage allows you to manage the overall available resource.
“While batteries are great at smaller scale and for fast response, the challenge for the industry has been to provide a large scale energy storage solution which does not have to rely on mountains and water.”
In addition to large scale energy storage, Highview’s technology can convert low-grade waste heat from co-located industrial processes to power and provide cooling for commercial use.

For more information,
please contact:
Toby Peters, COO
Highview Power Storage

Tel: +44 (0) 207 836 2604
Mobile: +44(0) 7879 637 276

Note for editors
Highview Power Storage is an award-winning energy technology company focused on a cleaner, more efficient and secure energy future. Specifically we have developed a novel, large-scale, long duration energy storage system using liquid air as the energy vector. It is one of only a few energy storage technologies which can be delivered today at the 50+MW scale with four+ hours of storage.
The technology has picked up a number of awards in the UK in the past few months, including the prestigious Grand Prix Prize at The Engineer 2011 Technology and Innovation Awards presented at the Royal Society.
All major equipment items are already manufactured by OEMs, thereby significantly reducing development risks while component lifetime and performance is proven (+25 years). Other key advantages include: scaleability; low capital cost relative to competitors; ability to harness low grade waste heat, and no geological or geographical constraints.
The plant can be located alongside industrial demand, converting low grade waste heat to power and provide cooling. Along with the capital cost advantages of one system/multiple services, it is able to utilise low grade waste heat significantly more efficiently than typical alternative technologies.
We have a fully operational pilot plant (350kW/2.5MWh) connected to the UK’s national grid; as such it complies with all the necessary regulations and inspections necessary (just like any other commercial generator). The plant, the first of its kind in the world, is hosted by SSE (Scottish & Southern Energy) at their Slough Heat & Power 80MW biomass plant. The plant was part-funded by a £1.1M grant from the UK government (Dept of Energy and Climate Change).
The plant has successfully undergone a full testing regime, including automated performance testing for the US PJM electricity market. It has in practical terms operating hours equivalent to three years of UK Short Term Operating Reserve service and is currently being operated for seasonal TRIAD management (a UK specific low load factor peaking service).

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