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Compressed air energy storage (CAES) should compete favourably with energy generation systems, delivering electricity for about 4.5 cents per kilowatt-hour: economical way to supply baseload power

Posted by gmarkets on 8 October, 2007

According to Daniel Pendick, an associate editor at Astronomy magazine in Waukesha, Wisconsin, a huge 2700-megawatt compressed air energy storage (CAES) project proposed in Norton, Ohio – using an abandoned limestone mine as the air storage reservoir – had already stalled for lack of finance, reported New Scientist (3/10/2007, p. 47). Aquifer study falters: Iowa Stored Energy Park (ISEP) had a $200,000 government grant to keep the project moving, but failed to get a grant from the 2007 federal budget to help cover the $1.5 million funding it needed to complete the study of the aquifer. After that it would need $200 million to build the plant.

Wind power: The initial design studies were planned for early 2008. Current plans called for 268 megawatts of generating capacity drawing on power from new wind generators rated at 75 megawatts. The wind turbines did not have to be on site. The electricity they generated could be imported over the grid from anywhere in Iowa or beyond, and ISEP would also buy cheap off-peak power from non-wind sources.

Unique project: The team suggested that for every megawatt-hour of wind energy used to compress air and store it underground, about 850 kilowatt-hours were recovered when the air is used to operate the turbines. They said ISEP could deliver electricity to consumers for about 4.5 cents per kilowatt-hour – about the price of electricity from conventional power stations. Though there are several other CAES projects under consideration across the US, ISEP remains a one-off: no one else is contemplating storing wind power in this way.

Enthusiast has doubts: Though Tom Wind, a consultant engineer, remained enthusiastic about the project, even he admitted that going it alone could sometimes lead to doubts. “We ask ourselves all the time: if this is such a good thing, how come nobody else is doing it?” he confesses. “You start to wonder when nobody is lining up behind you.”

Theoretical advantage: Perhaps it was simply a case of nobody wanting to be first to take the plunge, as a number of recent analyses suggested that wind farms combined with CAES should compete favourably with conventional energy generation systems. One report on the potential for wind energy with CAES in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico calculated that the operational costs of a CAES plant in the region could be less than that of a conventional gas or coal-fired unit. The economics could be even more attractive in future if the government starts to tax carbon emissions. “That’s where our project starts to shine,” Torn Wind says.

New Scientist, 3/10/2007, p. 47

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