Sunday, November 11, 2012

Compressed Air Energy Storage

Design picture of the utility-scale compressed air storage tank (Image source: LightSail Energy)

Couple of weeks ago I was talking about car powered by compressed air. Now another company is planning a bigger idea of using compressed air as energy storage, in the utility scale. LightSail Energy, based in Berkeley, California, has just raised $37.3 million to materialize the idea.

The main challenge encountered by companies engage in compressed air technology is when you try to store large quantities of compressed air it will create heat exceeding 1,000 degree C and this leads to enormous complications. LightSail solved the problem by using mist to cool the air, and then recapturing energy from the spent mist, in the form of heat. It also identified material for the storage tank that is strong enough to store bulk quantities of compressed air above ground, in relatively inexpensive facilities.

How the technology work (Image source: LightSail Energy)

As of whether it will work or not, I am not too sure. From the amount of money raised and the investors involved (Peter Thiel investor of PayPal, richest man in the world Bill Gates) indicates a very high degree of confidence in the company.

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