he world’s first grid-scale liquid air energy storage plant officially launched today.

The 5MW/15MWh plant near Manchester in England will become the first operational demonstration of liquid air energy storage (LAES) technology at grid-scale. World’s first grid-scale liquid air energy storage plant goes live

Professor John Loughhead, Chief Scientific Adviser at the UK government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, officially switched on the plant, which has been developed by energy storage company Highview Power in partnership with recycling and renewable energy firm Viridor.

Professor Loughhead said: “The deployment of smart, flexible technologies, such as energy storage, will help to ensure the UK has a secure, affordable and clean energy system now and in the future in keeping with the priorities within UK government’s Modern Industrial Strategy.”

LAES technology stores air as a liquid and then converts it back to a gas, involving an expansion process that releases stored energy, and this drives a turbine to generate electricity. In addition to providing energy storage, the LAES plant at Bury converts waste heat to power using heat from the onsite landfill gas engines.

Highview Power chief executive Gareth Brett said the plant “is the only large scale, true long-duration, locatable energy storage technology available today, at acceptable cost. The adoption of LAES technology is now underway, and discussions are progressing with utilities around the world who see the opportunity for LAES to support the transition to a low-carbon world.”

After the launch, demand response aggregator KiWi Power will be able to draw energy from the LAES plant to power about 5000 average-sized homes for around three hours. The plant will demonstrate how LAES can provide a number of reserve, grid balancing and regulation services.

Yet Highview says the opportunity is far greater: “LAES technology can scale to hundreds of megawatts in line with the energy demand of urban areas the size of small towns up to large cities. This means that LAES plants could easily store enough clean electricity generated by a local windfarm to power a town for many days, not just a few hours.

KiWi Power boss Yoav Zingher said liquid air energy storage technology “is a great step forward in the creation of a truly decentralized energy system in the UK allowing end-users to balance the national electricity network at times of peak demand”.World’s first grid-scale liquid air energy storage plant goes live

“By drawing energy from a diverse range of low-carbon storage assets, companies can not only balance the grid but help meet rising energy demand and respond to changing patterns of consumption on a local and national level.

“Given the high uptake of renewable energy in the UK this is the technology that will allow the future grid to maintain system inertia and ensure the lights stay on.”

Richard Pennells, managing director for energy at Viridor said LAES technology could play an important role in supporting UK growth in low carbon, renewable energy sources and in maintaining the security of the UK’s electricity supply.

“Sustainability and innovation has been at the heart of this project and it is this focus which is required to reduce our carbon footprint and deliver the long-term energy security the UK requires.”

Highview boss Brett added: “The market opportunity for LAES technology is exciting. We estimate that 60 per cent of the global energy storage market comprises long-duration, grid connected storage and that our LAES technology is ready to meet almost half of this.”

Logan Goldie-Scot, head of energy storage analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance said the global energy storage market will grow to a cumulative 125 GW/305 GWh by 2030, attracting $103bn in investment over this period.

“Utility-scale storage becomes a practical alternative to new-build generation or network reinforcement, especially for under-utilized assets in some markets. We expect energy storage to increasingly be used for longer durations over this period, providing such services as peaking capacity and renewable energy integration.”

Emma Gibson of Highview Power will be speaking in the energy storage arena at Electrify Europe later this month. For details and to register, click here.