Can you remember last when a Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) plant was commissioned? It was in 1991. However, this week startup SustainX has brought the technology back to the U.S. electricity grid, albeit in a vastly different form.
Compressed air batteries have long promised truly clean energy storage. But they haven’t scaled large enough in recent years to be viable companions to renewable power sources. But SustainX has switched on the first modern air battery which is large enough to join an electrical grid.
A key difference between SustainX’s technique known as Isothermal Compressed Air Energy Storage (ICAES) system and conventional CAES technology is that the compression and expansion of air are done at near-constant temperature and the process doesn’t require natural gas. And unlike conventional batteries, this system can vary the amount of energy independent of the power output. In other words, you can expand the amount of energy it stores simply by installing bigger pipes. That’s different from a battery designed to deliver.
ICAES is sustainable and can hold 1.5 megawatts of power versus the kilowatt-level capacities of its rivals. It doesn’t require ‘dirty’ energy for either compression or releasing air to its generator. Besides, the supply of energy won’t be degraded like that of a chemical battery. SustainX expects that it would be able to bring the first commercial battery running in China next year.