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Compressed air energy storage (Rev #3, changes)

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Compressed air energy storage is a way of storing energy by compressing air when energy is available and extracting energy from the compressed air by letting it expand when energy is required (a bit like a spring). It has been used commercially with coal-fired plants since 1978 to smooth out peaks in demand. It is often advocated as a means of making intermittent sources of energy such as wind power more useful.

The main difficulty is doing it efficiently. Compressing air makes it hot, and it is easy to lose this heat energy, while letting it expand makes it cold, so it needs warming up again. Several technologies mitigate the problem in different ways.

So far there are only two CAES plants in operation in the world: the 290 MW plant belonging to E.N Kraftwerk in Huntorf, Germany, and 110 MW plant of Alabama Electric Corporation in McIntosh, Alabama, USA, commissioned in 1991. (From Cheung et al, in 2003)

References

Large-Scale Energy Storage Systems, Cheung et al, Imperial College London, ISE2 2002/2003

CAES, Wikipedia.

A US nuclear future?, Nature, Vol 467, No. 7314, 23 September, 2010

category: energy