July 30, 2014
U.S. Department of Energy
This project develops and demonstrates a megawatt (MW)-scale Energy Storage System that employs compressed air as the storage medium. An isothermal compressed air energy storage (ICAESTM) system rated for 1 MW or more will be demonstrated in a full-scale prototype unit. Breakthrough cost-effectiveness will be achieved through the use of proprietary methods for isothermal gas cycling and staged gas expansion implemented using industrially mature, readily-available components.
The ICAES approach uses an electrically driven mechanical system to raise air to high pressure for storage in low-cost pressure vessels, pipeline, or lined-rock cavern (LRC). This air is later expanded through the same mechanical system to drive the electric motor as a generator. The approach incorporates two key efficiency-enhancing innovations: (1) isothermal (constant temperature) gas cycling, which is achieved by mixing liquid with air (via spray or foam) to exchange heat with air undergoing compression or expansion; and (2) a novel, staged gas-expansion scheme that allows the drivetrain to operate at constant power while still allowing the stored gas to work over its entire pressure range. The ICAES system will be scalable, non-toxic, and cost-effective, making it suitable for firming renewables and for other grid applications.