Highview and project partners, recycling and renewable energy company, Viridor, were awarded funding from the British Government Department of Energy and Climate Change (now BEIS), to build a 5MW Liquid Air Energy Storage (LAES) technology system that can power up to 5,000 homes for around three hours.

The funding is supporting the design, build and testing of a pre-commercial LAES technology demonstrator alongside Viridor’s landfill gas generation plant at Pilsworth Landfill facility in Greater Manchester. In addition to providing energy storage, the LAES plant will convert low-grade waste heat, from the GE Jenbacher landfill gas engines, to power.

gasworld spoke exclusively to Highview’s Business Development Director, Matt Barnett, about the LAES technology demonstrator and the company’s future plans for much larger systems.

Barnett explained, “The cryogenic energy facility uses electricity to liquefy air. When you refrigerate ambient air down to very low temperatures it turns into liquid. The liquid is then stored in large insulated tanks that keeps it cold and at a low pressure. When it’s time to put the electricity back into the grid, the liquid is pumped at high pressures and evaporated back into gas. When the liquid evaporates it expands by about 700%, this high volume of liquid is then forced through a turbine which generates electricity.”

The site near Manchester was chosen because of its grid connection and because it had waste heat from existing gas engines already on site. However, because this project is the first of its kind, it is experiencing some delays.

“Essentially, all of the major equipment is on the ground and is going through commissioning. There have been a few delays with the commissioning, but it should be operational in the Spring next year.”

Barnett added, “Additionally, right at the beginning of the project we changed location. The original site we chose wasn’t optimal, it didn’t have the head room on the electrical connection. So we lost some time moving over from the original site to this one. There has also been delays in the supply of equipment.”

”The technology is really destined to get much larger than 5MW. We are currently looking at 20 to 100MW systems that can do between 4 and 12 hours in duration.”

Matt Barnett, Business Development Director.

Highview has previously worked on developing similar pilot plants, however they were much smaller and could only do 350 kilowatts/2.5MW hours.

“The smaller scale projects were carried out to prove that what we had designed and modelled in the lab actually worked in practice. So it was to validate what we designed conceptually.”

The company has commissioned feasibility studies that look at much larger systems.

Barnett explained, “It’s worth noting that this is still very small for us. I think the main scope of this technology is definitely scaling it up to make it useful. The technology is really destined to get much larger than 5MW. We are currently looking at 20 to 100MW systems that can do between 4 and 12 hours in duration.”

Highview’s work has attracted interest from the gas industry who have been looking at energy storage systems for their own facilities for a number of years.

“They are interested in energy storage to help consumption and demand at their liquefaction plants so that they can improve the efficiency of their operation in the future.”

Barnett continued, “The Praxair and Linde merger which has been in and out of the press for the last several weeks is of interest to Highview because If it goes ahead it could set up a lot of opportunities for our technology. This industry has a lot of knowledge, equipment and embedded applications at existing sites that would be a natural fit for LAES technology.”

The project will operate for at least one year and will demonstrate LAES providing a number of balancing services, including Short Term Operating Reserve (STOR), Triad avoidance (supporting the grid during the winter peaks) and testing for the US regulation market. Construction on the project began in February 2015, it is currently in commissioning and is expected to be operational mid 2017.

5 MW pre commercial demonstrator

5 MW pre commercial demonstrator