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Using liquefied air to store electrical energy


The idea of using something to act as an energy store is by no means new.  I remember a power plant in Wales that used off-peak electricity to pump water uphill at night so it could be released to generate power when it was needed during the day.  The process is not very efficient, in that it generates less electricity coming out that it uses going in.  Typically it might exceed 50 percent, but be nowhere near the 90 percent a battery can deliver.

Now there’s a new idea that involves using liquid air.  It’s reported that Highview Power Storage of London is developing a system that uses liquid air.  The idea is that electricity is used to cool air down to the nearly -200 degrees C needed to liquefy it.  The air can then be allowed to warm and drive a generator when the power is needed.  At the moment they claim 50 – 60 percent efficiency, but no doubt that can be improved by fine-tuning the engineering.  And waste heat from other industrial processes can be used to heat up the liquid air.  Part of the attraction is that instead of using fossil fuel plants to back up renewable energy power sources when they are not generating, it is possible that storage plants such as this could be used instead.


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