Environmental Protection: Is “Liquid Air” The Key To Widespread Green Energy?
July 9, 2018

Even though green energy is surging all around the planet, with everything from solar and wind power to tidal generators and gravity-based energy projects, there is still a big problem that keeps cropping up; reliability. Fossil fuels, for all their many issues, can be burned as necessary, just sitting in storage tanks until they’re ready. If the sun goes down, or the wind stops blowing, then what is the grid going to do? If only there was a way to store all that extra sunlight and wind that doesn’t get used for later, when people need it.

Well, that “if only” might be closer than a lot of people think.

Will Liquid Air Be A Viable Solution?

There have been a lot of green energy storage solutions tried over the years. Battery systems, such as the Tesla Powerwall have proven successful, for example. The ARES system uses gravity to haul trains up steep grades, lock them in place, and then release them to turn turbines once more power is needed. Some places in Germany have even converted old mines to use hydro pumps to put water in a storage tank so that it can be released at a later date to keep the turbines turning.

In addition to these other storage methods, we can now add liquid air.

This idea, which has been built up to grid-scale in Northwest England according to Forbes, is the result of a partnership between GE and Highview Power. The way the system works is that, during off-peak hours, it uses renewable energy that would otherwise be wasted to cool air to -196 degrees Celsius. That is cold enough to turn the air into a liquid, which is then stored in a special container to ensure it remains in that state. When additional power is required at a later date, the liquid air is released, and it quickly expands back into its gaseous state. This expansion turns a turbine, which generates electricity.

What makes this method appealing is that it has the potential for long-term energy storage, and that it can be easily scaled-up to meet local demand. As long as there is enough green energy being produced, this technology should be able to store it longer than even the most advanced batteries could manage.

July 9, 2018
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