New tech developments could revolutionize how we store green energy

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As operating costs continue to rise, green energy is becoming more prominent in both the consumer and enterprise spaces. Companies and consumers alike are looking to conserve energy, waste fewer resources and spend less money. The sentiment is definitely understandable.

That’s why a variety of new and unique technologies are in the works to help cut down some of the costs we rack up. Modern technologies like solar-powered equipment and utilities, electric cars, green building materials and even recycled e-waste may eventually have a huge impact on our lives.

One new form of technology — which will be used to preserve additional energy generated by green sources like solar panels or wind turbines — could potentially save Ontario up to $8 billion over an extended period of 20 years. However, it’s not just Ontario that would benefit, it’s anywhere that decides to implement this new tech. That information comes from a study by NRStor and General Compression Inc.

How do they plan to do it, exactly? A method’s been proposed that would implement compressed air energy storage.

New Green Energy Storage Tech

In order to store the excess energy, NRStor Inc. has proposed a form of technology that will compress air and preserve it in salt caverns. Presumably, it could be tapped into when additional power is needed, like when the wind isn’t blowing strong enough to produce energy.

In addition, it also plans to store excess energy produced by Ontario’s nuclear reactors. The province experiences times when there’s a high demand for energy (peak), and when there’s a low demand yet excess production (off-peak). For the times when energy is in a much higher demand, it must pay nuclear-operating stations in the area fees to cover the additional power output. Those fees are rolled out to ratepayers in the area, jacking up costs for everyone.

The NRStor study proposes that by tapping into stored energy instead – during times of increased demand – it could save Ontario consumers anywhere from $6.5 billion to $8.3 billion over 20 years. It would also reduce carbon emissions by 87 million tonnes during that same time period.

Jim Burpee, the previous president of the Canadian Electricity Association, says that energy storage solutions are “part of the missing link” for modern power systems. “It’s a critical aspect for both reliability in terms of voltage and frequency control, as well as taking care of production when the wind blows, but you’re not using the electricity.”

NRStor and General Compression Inc. joined up to create the technology that is necessary to achieve this kind of energy storage. The compressed air technology they developed doesn’t actually use a form of fuel. Instead, it garners its own energy from heat-exchangers through something called a near isothermal process. Essentially, these types of compression systems utilize a heat absorbing and transfer process to store and maintain the energy.

This type of air compression has been used in the past, yet natural gas compression was adopted to compress the air in the storage system, which ultimately helps lower the operating costs of the plant. There are actually two of these compressed air storage plants in operation currently. One of them is located in the United States, and the other is located in Germany.

Whatever ends up happening in Ontario, these types of air-compression systems could potentially revolutionize the way we use green energy.

One of the caveats of renewable energy – especially as it relates to solar and wind power – is that it’s possible to experience lulls; periods of time in which less energy is produced. That’s what requires a dependence on a backup form of energy, like traditional power.

Advanced energy storage systems like the one NRStor and General Compression Inc. have created may eventually allow us to wean off the grid entirely.

Image by Public Domain Archive

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  • James A Garfield