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Configuration of an "adiabatic compressed air energy storage facility"
© BINE Informationsdienst
Research focus: Electricity storage facilities
25.01.2010

Compressed air energy storage to buffer wind power

The German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology has added the "electricity storage facilities" research focus to the research areas that it supports. One of the first projects to be funded is the development and construction of an "adiabatic compressed air energy storage facility". Construction of the first large-scale demonstration plant is to start in 2013.

Compressed air storage balances out fluctuations in the power supply and demand in a grid by using excess electricity to compress air into underground caverns. The energy stored in this manner can then be converted back into electricity later when it is needed. This type of plant can achieve a significantly increased efficiency if the heat released during compression is also stored and then used in the process of reconverting stored energy into electricity. Such an "adiabatic" compressed air storage facility is to be developed by a consortium of companies made up of RWE, General Electric, Züblin, Ooms-Ittner-Hof GmbH, Erdgasspeicher Kalle GmbH and DLR.

In Germany, wind energy utilisation is growing dynamically. This requires adjustments to electricity grids, the power plant mix, and energy management, as wind turbines do not produce in a demand-oriented manner, but in a weather-dependent manner. Large energy storage facilities could make it possible to plan and control the energy supply from wind farms in the same way as is possible with conventional power plants. Northern Germany's widespread salt domes offer ideal conditions for the construction of the large caverns which are the central component of compressed air energy storage power plants. Up to now, there have only been built few of these so-called CAES (compressed air energy storage) power plants worldwide: the first power plant of this type went into operation in Huntorf in Lower Saxony in 1978, and to this day has been working as a minutes reserve with high availability. In contrast with the planned pilot plant, this system does not store the compression heat, thus resulting in a relatively low overall efficiency. About 1.6 kWh of gas, and 0.8 kWh of base-load electricity are required in order to generate 1 kWh of peak-load electricity.

BINE-Projektinfo on this topic

Research into whether and how wind energy can be better integrated into the German and European electricity supply by means of CAES power plants, is being conducted in various studies.  A BINE-Projektinfo brochure from 2007 is available that covers the research work completed at the time.

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