The changing global energy mix and the growth of renewables will drive a revival in the underground compressed air energy storage industry, according to a new report.

The analysis predicts that the sector – which it says has been “largely dormant” for 20 years – will install capacity of 11 GW between this year and 2013.

Compressed air energy storage (CAES) has been commercially available for more than 30 years yet no new plants have been deployed since 1991.

Yet project activity and interest in the technology has grown in recent years and higher-efficiency next-generation CAES technology is also nearing commercialisation. 

According to the report from Navigant Research, CAES technology could play a significant role in relation to wind and solar energy integration, grid asset optimization and transmission and distribution.

Kerry-Ann Adamson, research director with Navigant, said: “Rapidly changing energy mixes and increasing renewable energy penetration will continue to introduce instability onto electricity grids worldwide in the coming years, while the volatility of load profiles will challenge grid operators to deliver reliable and secure electricity.” 

She said “these macro conditions will drive demand for CAES, helping to rejuvenate a sector that has been largely dormant for the last two decades”.

Growth in the sector will also be driven by advances in isothermal, or adiabatic, CAES, which can be sited anywhere and conveniently scaled using modular units. Navigant states that “a handful of players are innovating in this space and their technology will be commercially validated in the next 12 to 36 months”.