Construction is beginning on the world’s largest liquid air battery, which will store renewable electricity and reduce carbon emissions from fossil-fuel power plants.
The project near Manchester, U.K., will use spare green energy to compress air into a liquid and store it. When demand is higher, the liquid air is released back into a gas, powering a turbine that puts the green energy back into the grid.
A big expansion of wind and solar energy is vital to tackle the climate emergency, but they are not always available. Storage is therefore key, and the new project will be the largest in the world outside of pumped hydro schemes, which require a mountain reservoir to store water.
The new liquid air battery, being developed by Highview Power, is due to be operational in 2022 and will be able to power up to 200,000 homes for five hours, and store power for many weeks. Chemical batteries are also needed for the transition to a zero-carbon world and are plummeting in price, but can only store relatively small amounts of electricity for short periods.
Liquid air batteries can be constructed anywhere, said Highview’s chief executive, Javier Cavada: “Air is everywhere in the world. The main competitor is really not other storage technologies but fossil fuels, as people still want to continue building gas and coal-fired plants today, strangely enough,” he said.
The U.K. government has supported the project with a $12.5 million grant. The energy and clean growth minister, Kwasi Kwarteng, said: “This revolutionary new facility will form a key part of our push towards net zero, bringing greater flexibility to Britain’s electricity grid and creating green-collar jobs in Greater Manchester.
“Projects like these will help us realize the full value of our world-class renewables, ensuring homes and businesses can still be powered by green energy, even when the sun is not shining and the wind not blowing,” he said.
The U.K. government is being urged to make the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic a green one. “We owe it to future generations to build back better,” said the prime minister, Boris Johnson, recently, while the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, is reported to be planning a “green industrial revolution.”