Liquid air energy storage technology could unlock a £1bn industry and 22,000 UK jobs, according to a new report.
The report from business and academic experts and published by the Centre for Low Carbon Futures (CLCF) found that the use of liquid air for grid-based energy storage could increase UK energy security, cut greenhouse gas emissions and create a new industry worth at least £1bn a year and 22,000 jobs to the UK.
Air can be turned into a liquid by cooling it to around -196C using standard industrial equipment and kept in an unpressurised insulated vessel as a means of storing the variable energy produced by some renewable energy sources.
When the energy is needed again heat can be applied to boil the liquid air, turning it back into a gas that can be used to drive a piston engine or turbine.
The report, launched at a conference at the Royal Academy of Engineering today, highlights the opportunity for a nation-wide network of Liquid Air energy storage plants that are charged by surplus energy at night, feeding the energy back into the system when it is needed most during the day.
Professor Richard Williams, pro-vice chancellor of the University of Birmingham, who led the report, says: “Solving Britain’s energy crisis requires better ways to store the power of the wind and the sun at large scale without relying on scarce natural resources, and liquid air provides a missing piece of that puzzle.”
According to the report a single gasometer-style tank of liquid air could make good the loss of 5GW of wind power for three hours – equivalent to almost 10 per cent of the UK’s peak electricity needs – and help to protect British homes from black-outs.
Smaller systems could also be used to provide zero-emission back-up and reserve services for surplus energy to replace diesel gensets.
Liquid air energy storage could become £1bn industry