Photo (cropped): Long duration energy storage systems can help reduce the cost of curtailing wind farms in the UK (courtesy of Highview Power).

Ice-Cold Long Duration Energy Storage System Ready For Takeoff

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Long duration energy storage systems are the key to unlocking more global wind and solar power, but there’s a catch. The “long” in long duration is a difficult feat of engineering, and investors have been reluctant to take a chance on new breakthrough technologies. Nevertheless, the finance dam has been cracking, as just demonstrated by the long duration storage innovator Highview Power.

The Long Duration Energy Storage Investment Dam Is Cracking

CleanTechnica first took note of Highview Power’s “liquid air” battery all the way back in 2011, which just goes to show how difficult it is to stir the financial pot when new energy storage technology is involved. The initial proof-of-concept system weighed in at just 300 kilowatts at the time.

We’ve been following Highview’s long duration journey since then, including a bump up to a 50-megawatt system planned for Vermont.

That project was put to bed in 2022, after Highview identified some additional opportunities elsewhere around the globe, including the company’s home turf of the UK.

And that’s where the investor dollars begin to flow.

Highview contacted CleanTechnica by email earlier this week to draw our attention to its latest press release, which announces that the global mining powerhouse Rio Tinto, the UK Infrastructure Bank, and global engineering firm Centrica have chipped in together for a £300 million investment, aimed at enabling Highview to construct the first utility-scale liquid air storage facility in the UK.

That comes on top of a £35 million stake from Sumitomo Heavy Industries announced in 2020. That same year, Highview also announced a partnership with the energy firm Carlton Power to build five liquid air “CRYObattery” facilities, totaling 1 gigawatt.

“First up is a 50 MW / 250 MWh liquid air battery in Greater Manchester, which won a £10 million grant from the UK Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy,” CleanTechnica reported.

“So, here’s where it gets interesting,” we added. “The CRYObattery will be located at the Trafford Energy Park, which was supposed to be the location of a proposed £800 million, 1.8 GW gas-fired power plant developed by Carlton.”

The Long Duration Energy Storage Difference

Interesting, indeed. If you caught that timeline, the idea of building that new gas power plant at Trafford was dumped two years before Russia invaded Ukraine, sending the EU and the UK scrambling for alternative energy supplies, so it’s fortunate that long duration storage was already on the radar of UK energy planners.

Long duration technology fits into the picture because it can provide for more storage than battery-type storage systems. The current rule of thumb for utility-scale battery energy storage systems (BESS) is in the range of 4-6 hours, though CleanTechnica has seen some new systems that approach 8 hours.

That’s enough energy storage to handle daily grid-balancing chores and passing emergencies. Today’s BESS technology can also help avoid the construction of new gas “peaker” plants, which would otherwise be needed for peak demand periods.

Replacing baseload power plants is the next step. The US Department of Energy is among those pushing for storage systems that can accommodate a grid saturated with wind and solar power. That means at least 10 hours of storage or more, lasting days or weeks into months and seasons.

Right now, pumped hydropower is the only system in widespread use to meet (and beat) the 10-hour goalpost, though flow batteries and iron-air batteries are beginning to show some potential for rapid adoption.

How Does It Work?

While Highview’s CRYObattery is new in terms of scale and application, the idea derives from longstanding refrigeration technology, married with the availability of excess wind or solar power.

“The Highview unit would use an unused excess at times of low demand to power refrigeration units to cool air to around -190 °C – which turns air into liquid nitrogen for cryogenic energy storage,” CleanTechnica reported back in 2011.

“Once the refrigerators, powered by the renewable energy, have chilled the air to a liquid, it is then stored in a tank at ambient pressure — about 1 bar. When electricity is needed, the liquid air is subjected to a pressure of 70 bars and warmed in a heat exchanger,” we added.

Once rewarmed, the air can power a turbine. Highview claims a duration from 6 hours to several weeks, depending on the configuration needed. The company noted that the Traffod Energy Park facility, for example, will provide for 50 megawatts per hour for six hours once completed.

New Energy Storage Solutions: Who’s Gonna Pay For All This?

If all goes according to plan, that first plant will be followed by four others.

“Highview Power will now also commence planning on the next four larger scale 2.5 GWh facilities (with a total anticipated investment of £3 billion),” Highview explains.

“Located at strategic sites across the UK, these will ensure a fast roll-out of the technology to align with UK LDES support mechanisms and enable the ESO’s Future Energy Scenario Plans.”

The big question is whether or note widespread deployment of Highview’s energy storage solution will have an impact on rates. That remains to be seen, but Highview anticipates that its CRYObattery will help balance out the considerable cost of curtailing wind farm production in the UK. Highview cites the figure of £800 million in 2023 alone to down-power wind farms.

And Of Course, Green Hydrogen

Another way to reduce the cost of wind farm curtailments is to put all those clean kilowatts to use at night, when residential and commercial use tail off. CleanTechnica has been noticing that the offshore wind industry, in particular, is beginning to see green hydrogen as a solution.

Green hydrogen refers to hydrogen pushed from water in an electrolysis system, deploying electricity sourced from renewable energy. It’s a more sustainable source of hydrogen compared to the current practice of drawing hydrogen from natural gas or coal. Electrolyzers can produce hydrogen at night, providing wind farms with a place to lodge their clean kilowatts when onshore demand is low.

Sure enough, Highview notes that the Trafford campus will also house one in a growing series of green hydrogen projects under the wing of Carlton Power. Carlton also recently teamed up with the investment management firm Shroeders Greencoat to build up to 500 megawatts’ worth of electrolyzer plants in the UK by 2030.

Not leaving any energy storage stone left unturned, Carlton is also planning for 2 gigawatts’ worth of lithium-ion batteries at the site.

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Photo (cropped): Long duration energy storage systems can help reduce the cost of curtailing wind farms in the UK (courtesy of Highview Power).

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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

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