Canadian innovator Hydrostor is looking around Australia for suitable sites for its compressed air storage technology, which it says can provide electricity at half the cost of competing battery technology, and can also utilise former mine sites and coal-fired power stations.

The technology involves converting off-peak electricity into compressed air and storing it in sites such as caverns or in underwater vessels, and then releasing it to generate electricity. The heat generated during compression is also stored to provide additional energy when the air is released and negate the need for fossil-fuel inputs.

The Adiabatic Compressed Air Energy Storage technology has already been piloted in Canada, where a marine storage system was installed offshore from Toronto Island in November 2015. The system feeds into Toronto Hydropower’s grid on demand.

Another installation at Goderich in Canada with 7MWh storage capacity is currently under construction, and the company has inked a contract to construct a 6MWh storage installation with a 1MW power rating in Aruba.

The company has appointed AECOM to help its entrance to the Australian market and search for suitable locations in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia.

AECOM’s Process Technologies division based in Austin, Texas has an ongoing partnership with Hydrostor to commercialise the technology and deliver turn-key CAES facilities.

It is proposed to use the land-based Hydrostor Terra version of the concept in Australia.

“Hydrostor’s entry into the Australian market changes the conversation on cost effective, emission-free alternatives to fossil-fuel generation and limited storage technologies,” Hydrostor chief executive Curtis VanWalleghem said.

“Hydrostor Terra beats natural gas to deliver essential services and dispatchable capacity, while offering longer duration and longer life storage of 30-plus years versus batteries, at half the cost. Terra’s sizing and siting flexibility also offers significant advantages over pumped hydro.”

The technology can be deployed at any site within proximity to a body of water and can also be installed in legacy mine sites or at retired coal-fired plants.

According to the Australian Energy Council, there are currently nine decommissioned coal-fired power plants in Australia that closed down between 2010 and 2016. There are three in NSW, two in Victoria, two in Queensland and two in South Australia. A third Victorian plant, Hazelwood, has entered the decommissioning phase this year.

There is also no shortage of former mine sites, either. Corinne Unger from the University of Queensland’s Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation has estimated that there are about 50,000 derelict mines across the country.

4 replies on “Air storage could give old coal mines and power stations a sustainable lease on life”

  1. Interesting – however (to me) this description is a bit too glib,’glossy’ & too good to be true to be true… a little bit like the ‘perpetual motion’ machines (submitted by enthusiasts) that I used to be asked to review when I was a young engineer. If my memory of applied thermodynamics is still any good – an adiabatic process is the ideal that cannot be achieved in any real heat-energy transfer. I note that the overall efficiency claimed is 60% compared with around 80% for pumped storage hydro – & because of the above concerns, I wonder if 60% is optimistic. Also, it seems to me that perfectly sealing a huge underground cavern with shotcrete might be a huge challenge. I think a more detailed & realistic description might be a good thing.

  2. An excellent article about a genuinely novel concept I had not heard about. Leading me to again reaffirm Socrates’ concept that “the most important thing I know is how much I don’t know”.
    Please keep up the great work 5th Estate.

  3. Hi Phil,

    Would that be the Dearman Engine by any chance? I read about that in “We do things differently” a book I reviewed here a while back.

    A company was formed that has got to beta testing stage with a refrigeration unit for trucks that can help reduce food waste, and a stand-alone power generation unit.

  4. Looks interesting.
    I read about a similar concept a while ago. Store Liquid air created with renewables /off peak driving refrigeration systems. Then use the air when expanding to drive electricity generators when required.

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