Compressed Air As Batteries

in STEMGeeks2 months ago

Nowadays, a large amount of electricity is produced by renewable sources. But they don’t always produce energy at the time we exactly need it. One of the most promising solutions to solve that are batteries that use compressed air.


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Image by Bruno /Germany from Pixabay

As our world is moving more and more towards renewable sources of energy the need for high-energy batteries that will store that energy is rising. And each renewable source of energy comes with its own sets of problems making it hard to create a power grid that just works all the time.

To solve that problem, we need batteries capable of holding massive amounts of energy. We don’t really care whether they will use chemistry or physics to achieve it. Maybe the winners will be lithium-ion batteries, or perhaps ones based on pumping water, batteries with a high thermal capacity, batteries that use molten salts, or even just large blocks of concrete that we will pull up and down. But maybe, the solution lies in batteries with compressed air.

One start-up company that wants to build batteries that use physics to store energy is Hydrostor. Recently, this company announced that they will be building two such batteries in California and each of them will be the largest system to store energy apart from those that use large amounts of water for that purpose. The first “air-battery” should be built in Rosamondo and should start working in 2026 and the second still hasn’t had its location determined apart from being in California as well. But each of the air-batteries should hold up to 5 GWh of energy and can deliver up to 500 MW of energy into the grid.

Hydrostor uses CAES (Compressed Air Energy Storage) technology. More precisely, A-CAES where the A stands for adiabatic. Such a device stores heat which is removed during the compression of regular air into subterranean storage. When returning the energy into the grid the stored heat is used to heat up the compressed air and this leads to higher effectiveness of the battery.

Together, the batteries could store up to 20 GWh of energy that can be released into the grid over 8 – 12 hours. These parameters are pretty respectable but the main benefit of such a battery is its life span as they should be functioning for more than 50 years and its longevity that will to them being economically viable.

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This concept has been used in the small scale by professional carpenters since the 50s, through the usage of pneumatic nail guns :-) There are also other power tools that can use compressed air as a power source. The average power consumption of a carpenter using a nail gun is lower than the 2 kW one can take from a completely ordinary electricity socket, but each nail requires reasonably high amounts of energy over a really short timespan, so a crazy amount of peak power. The carpenter may wish to "fire" multiple nails rapidly, possibly spending more than 2 kW over a minute or two - so it may be needed with a reasonably big "pneumatic battery" :-)