Australia’s first compressed air energy storage facility gets go-ahead

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With the development approval in place, South Australia is set to welcome the nation’s first advanced compressed air energy storage (A-CAES) facility. The $30 million project at the Angas Zinc Mine near Strathalbyn will be delivered by Canada’s Hydrostor.

The 5 MW/10 MWh fuel-free battery will use electricity from the grid to run a compressor and produce heated, compressed air that can be stored 240 metres underground in a purpose-built cavern and kept at constant pressure using hydrostatic head from a water column.

During charging, heat from the compressed air is collected and stored before the cooled air displaces water out of the cavern up to a water reservoir on the surface. To discharge, water flows back into the cavern forcing air to the surface under pressure where it is heated with the stored thermal energy and drives a turbine to generate electricity when demand in the electricity grid is high.

The A-CAES has similar applications to pumped hydro, which works by pumping water up-hill when demand is low and then releasing it down pipes through a turbine to generate electricity when demand is high. It can provide the dispatchability required to ensure reliability of the power system as more solar and wind power is installed.

“Compressed air storage has the potential to provide similar benefits to pumped hydro energy storage, however it has the added benefits of being flexible with location and topography, such as utilizing a cavern already created at a disused mine site,” ARENA CEO Darren Miller said earlier, adding the project could open up a new form of renewable energy storage in Australia.

The project is supported by $3 million in funding through the South Australian Government’s Renewable Technology Fund and $6 million in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). Hydrostor is expecting around 40 jobs during the construction phase and a further four ongoing positions over the project’s 30 year lifespan.

“This is another step in the transition of South Australia’s energy system by the integration of renewable energy into the grid to deliver cheaper, more reliable and cleaner energy,” Energy and Mining Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan said. “A-CAES is a new energy storage technology for Australia that provides synchronous inertia, load shifting and frequency regulation to support grid security and reliability.”

The Angas project was unveiled in February in the commercial demonstration phase. Meanwhile, Canada’s Hydrostor has set up an office in Adelaide as a result of this project. Trade Tourism and Investment Minister David Ridgway welcomed the benefits Hydrostor’s investment will deliver to the state and the local community.

“Hydrostor is the latest in a line of high profile, international renewables companies to set up operations in this state,” Ridgway said. “With 47% of South Australia’s energy production now coming from renewable sources our state is without doubt a major global player, and this is reflected in the $7 billion worth of investment we’ve attracted into the local industry.”