Thought You Knew Energy Storage? Now Consider Compressed Air

Compressed Air Energy Storage

Balancing the electricity load between peak demand and peak generation

With the growth of alternative energy sources, such as solar and wind power, the peak generation of energy does not necessarily correspond to the peak times of energy usage. As a result, effective, efficient, and relatively inexpensive methods for energy storage have become a barrier to the further benefits of increases in sustainable energy generations. To address these needs, the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and other organizations are investigating deployment of compressed air energy storage (CAES) as a means for efficiently storing energy on a large scale that is not feasible using battery technology.

Briefly, CAES entails injection and storage of compressed air into underground caverns or, more commonly, porous media formations using gas turbine technology. The CAES approach supports the introduction of alternative, environmentally friendly energy generation technologies, such as wind or solar power, that operate intermittently, helping to balance the electricity load between peak demand and peak generation. PG&E, for example, is currently assessing the feasibility of a 300-megawatt CAES in California’s San Joaquin Valley.

Selection of a suitable geologic storage reservoir—typically an inactive natural gas field—requires assessing a number of key parameters that could influence process efficiency, such as target formation of porosity, depth and pressure conditions, geochemistry, and many other factors. Additionally, environmental assessments addressing potential impacts of CAES surface infrastructure to nearby endangered species, aquatic life, and cultural features are required.

With technical expertise spanning the range of subject matter areas critical to designing and implementing this emerging technology (e.g., geology and geochemistry, advanced flow and transport modeling, environmental assessments), Roux Associates is well positioned to provide support for this promising new green technology.

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