Compressed Air Energy Storage: An Emerging Power Solution Nears its Defining Moment

Storing energy with compressed air is about to have its moment of truth

The Dawn of Long-Duration Energy Storage

As the global need for sustainable and reliable energy sources intensifies, the spotlight is now firmly on long-duration energy storage technologies. These innovative solutions are primed to bridge the gap when renewable sources like wind and solar fall short of meeting electricity demand. Among the front runners in this space is Toronto-based Hydrostor Inc., a company that’s moving beyond theoretical blueprints to actualize large-scale energy storage systems.

Understanding Compressed Air Energy Storage

Hydrostor Inc.’s unique approach involves harnessing the power of compressed air stored underground. By leveraging this method, the company can release energy to generate electricity for periods extending to eight hours or more. In a recent conversation, Hydrostor’s co-founder and CEO, Curtis VanWalleghem, shed light on the simplicity and effectiveness of this technology.

“It’s a very simple system that just uses a hole in rock [plus] air and water,” he said. “And then the equipment is all from the oil and gas industry, so you don’t need new manufacturing or anything.”

Why Long-Duration Energy Storage Matters

As the world moves closer to a future powered predominantly by renewable energy, the need for long-duration storage becomes increasingly crucial. Contemporary lithium-ion battery systems can only last a maximum of four hours, leaving a void during periods of low wind or solar energy generation. To address this, energy system planners are seeking storage alternatives that can operate for six, eight, and even 12 hours, and some lasting a day or more.

The United States Department of Energy has also recognized the importance of long-duration storage for the complete decarbonization of the electricity system. In 2021, the department set an ambitious goal to reduce the costs of these technologies by 90 percent within a decade through focused research, development, and investment.

A Competitive Landscape

While a variety of companies and technologies are vying for a piece of the long-duration energy storage market, Hydrostor stands out with its unique approach. Their first major project, the Silver City Energy Storage Centre in Australia, is set to go online soon. The facility will have the capacity to discharge at 200 megawatts for up to eight hours. VanWalleghem anticipates that construction will commence towards the end of 2024, with the plant operational by mid-2027.

The Future of Energy Storage

The emergence of long-duration energy storage solutions like those developed by Hydrostor represents a significant leap forward in our quest for a sustainable energy future. As these technologies continue to evolve and become more accessible, they are set to play a pivotal role in our global energy landscape, providing reliable power even when renewable resources cannot meet demand. This exciting development promises a future where sustainable, reliable, and affordable energy is no longer a lofty goal, but a tangible reality.