According to Navigant Research, the compressed air energy storage industry is forecast to grow drastically during the next 10 years.
“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,” says Kerry-Ann Adamson, research director with Navigant Research. “These macro conditions will drive demand for CAES, helping to rejuvenate a sector that has been largely dormant for the last two decades.”
Apart from the above factors, it’s important to note that coal, nuclear, and thermal natural gas power plants are slow to adjust and unable to meet electricity demand on their own, hence the use of peaking power plants.
According to the new Navigant Research report, CAES growth is also to be driven by the improvement of scalable, modular CAES technologies such as isothermal and adiabatic CAES. There are a handful of developers in this industry and they have technology which is projected to be commercially validated within the next 12 to 36 months.
The report also stated some challenges: “The unique siting requirements of traditional underground CAES, however, present substantial development risk and limit the technology’s outlook. Higher efficiency, next-generation CAES technologies that are not limited by geological considerations are on the cusp of commercialization, and are well positioned to address the gap in availability of long duration energy storage technology that can be sited where needed. Navigant Research forecasts that worldwide installed capacity of compressed air energy storage systems will reach 11.2 GW by 2023.”
The main applications focused on in the study are: Wind energy integration, solar energy integration, grid asset optimization, transmission and distribution deferral, and ancillary services.
The basic concept of compressed air energy storage has existed for decades, and has been commercially available for over 30 years. It never caught on much and became mainstream, as it wasn’t the most cost-effective option in most applications. However, as the need for energy storage grows greater, CAES becomes more attractive, especially with the advancements in technology noted above.
Compressed air energy storage systems can be built without rare materials, and can also be built to last a very long time, if the manufacturer chooses to do so. Compressed air energy storage systems can also be recharged and discharged very quickly. Some consider it “low-tech” due to its simplicity. And let’s not overlook that fact that simplicity is a great thing!
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