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Earth Technology

East Texas Getting Compressed Air Energy Storage Plant 248

First time accepted submitter transporter_ii writes "A compressed air energy storage (CAES) plant was first built in Germany in 1978, but East Texas will be the site of one of the world's first modern CAES plants. How does it work? A CAES power generation facility uses electric motor-driven compressors (generated by natural gas generators) to inject air into an underground storage cavern and later releases the compressed air to turn turbines and generate electricity back onto the grid, according to the plants owner. The location near Palestine, Texas was selected because of its large salt dome, which will be used to store the compressed air. The plant is estimated to cost $350 million-plus, and will create about 20 to 25 permanent jobs."
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East Texas Getting Compressed Air Energy Storage Plant

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  • Efficiency? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by OpenSourced ( 323149 ) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @03:07PM (#40657255) Journal

    Anybody knows how efficient is that? As compared with storage in water reservoirs for example?

    • with Texas in the throws of a multi-year drought, it's not so much efficiency as it is possibility
    • The real question is, what does it cost per MW? CAES is cheap. In addition, it normally goes in where there is NOT good terrain for water storage. As such, this complements hydro, not competes against it. Likewise, we should be doing thermal storage which then has NG or atomic back-up. It is around 50% efficiency, but can be made more efficient with a little bit of RD. Thermal has the advantage of being able to be placed in the location of old coal plants.
    • Or since they burn natural gas in turbines to drive generators to generate the electricity to drive the motors to drive the compressors ... which will drive turbines to drive generators to generate electricity can't we eliminate everything after the first "to generate electricity" and if not because of peak demand issues store the natural gas instead and still short circuit a lot of this. I think thermodynamics is being monkeyed with here ...
  • by malhombre ( 892618 ) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @03:08PM (#40657259)
    Sounds like a lot of hot air.
  • Hope it works. There are lots of salt domes on the Gulf Coastal Plain.
  • by infogulch ( 1838658 ) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @03:17PM (#40657347)

    When your compress air it heats up, increasing the pressure and making it harder to compress more air.

    After it's been in the ground for a while it cools back down to ambient temperatures.

    Then when you're extracting it the air is expanding which makes it cool down and reduces the pressure, therefore reducing the practical energy you can get out of it.

    This is basic stuff you learn in Chemistry I.

    • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @03:27PM (#40657407) Journal
      100% efficient? Nope. Still it is better than 75% efficient. The real issue is what is the COSTS / MW? With this approach, a utilitiy company can skip the on-demand systems (typically turbine running NG, or a coal plant that is running low). These are EXPENSIVE to run. With 50% or better efficiency, a company can simply put on AE, Nukes, even NG boilers and then store energy at night, and use this for the variable demands.
    • If only there was some way Texas could heat up all that air. It's too bad it's such a cold and cloudy environment all year long.

      The best that they can ever hope for is the air at the temperature coming out of the ground.

    • Yes, PV=nRT (or some more accurate version of it). However, for this application, the volume is so huge that the air doesn't actually heat up all that much as it's compressed. Similar methods have been used for storing natural gas in salt domes for decades.
      • When you store natural gas in salt domes, the energy isn't in the pressure, it's in the gas itself. You don't care if it retains pressure as long as you can store more gas in there. In fact, you're prefer lower pressure in general, it's easier to work with.

        The volume doesn't matter except to improve volume to surface area (radiative/conductive area) ratio. Each bite of air heats up the same amount during compression whether you then dump it into a big cavity or a small one.

    • by fliptout ( 9217 )

      Perhaps at the exit, run the pipes through solar collectors. Using solar heat would be a cheap way to drive up efficiency.

  • Square feet?

    Cubic yards?


    Bottles of Lone Star BBQ Sauce?

    Ping-pong balls?


  • Someone must have patents on that technology. Will East Texas continue to be so patent friendly when they are going to be receiving the sharp end of the stick?

  • by cryfreedomlove ( 929828 ) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @03:27PM (#40657409)
    This sounds like an interesting energy storage system. Storage is exactly what is needed to make solar energy generation practical for use when the sun is not shining at night. That idea gets me excited.

    Generating the energy to fill the storage with compressed air by burning Natural Gas (NG) seems stupid to me. It is more efficient to just leave the energy stored as NG. Converting that to compressed air and then again to electricity adds a middle step that adds inefficiency.
    • Wind turbine power too, but yeah, solar powered compression makes sense for Texas.
    • by Bobartig ( 61456 )

      I don't know why solar isn't being used, but on the burning of natural gas, it sounds like the purpose of a compressed air reservoir is that it can generate large amounts of power on demand, so it acts like a large battery that helps to ease peak demand spikes. From the article:

      According to Apex’ website, compressed air energy storage (CAES) is unique in its ability to efficiently store and redeploy energy on a large scale in order to provide low-cost energy and enhance grid reliability.

      Makes it soun

    • I agree with you. Heck even if you're going to compress something, compress the natural gas!

      All I can think is there is a limitation on how rapidly (or slowly) they can burn the natural gas and turn it into electricity. Otherwise, just keep the natural gas around until you need the energy and burn it then.

      Why if there's a limit on how fast you can burn the natural gas there wouldn't be one on free-wheeling it into a turbine too I have no idea.

  • or the most unique way to asplode a salt dome yet invented

  • The first CAES plant, a 290 megawatt facility, was built in Huntorf, Germany in 1978.

    The Bethel Energy Center is slated to be a 317 megawatt facility which is about one-quarter of the size of a gas-powered plant near Richland Chambers in Freestone County, according to Farley.

    So a few decades later, we are going to be the cutting edge in building something with effectively the same operational capacity as the original? Keep in mind these things are just giant batteries that use air pressure, and I'm assuming the same electric motors that pump air in will extract energy when the air comes back out, with a ~80-90% efficiency either way.

    We spending a third of a billion dollars to push air around like they did in the 70's.

  • I did some looking around at this about a year ago and it turns out that the compressed air expands and therefore cools so much that unless you preheat it everything will ice up. In fact the recovery unit is typically a NG turbine. Exhaust heat from the turbine preheats the compressed air which is then mixed with NG and fed into the turbine to get boosted combustion. Much more efficient than compressed air alone.
  • Going from natural gas, to electricity, to compressed air?

    Just go from CNG to elec or convert plants to run on CNG.

    What the fuck, Texas Engineers?

  • disclaimer: I'm a huge fan of texans. your government, not really.

    this is a state that fails to recognize things like the need for comprehensive medical care and climate change science. they push each year to have evolution redacted from the textbooks and think assembling as elected leaders to pray for rain will somehow solve this states perpetual immolation and drought problem. Texas legislature presides over the largest teen pregnancy rate in the nation yet insists abstinence only is a perfectly reason

    • What does teen pregnancy and your political views have to do with energy production? (Hint: nothing) Also, you aren't "insightful," more like, "off topic." People are flocking to Texas in droves, what would label this as pork would be if the government subsidized it and it runs at a massive loss but is political favor. Jobs are somewhat irrelevant if the program is going to go belly up in a few years, the job of a business isn't to create jobs, that's a byproduct. You have to run at a profit, this doesn't s
  • by buddyglass ( 925859 ) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @05:30PM (#40658281)

    The advantage to CAES energy storage seems to be in allowing the energy producer to maintain a lower peak capacity. During times of low demand he produces a surplus of energy, some portion of is stored as compressed air. During times of high demand this stored energy is released and used to augment what his production apparatus can natively provide.

    That's all well and good. What confuses me is that this thing in Texas is going to be powered by natural gas. I had thought one of the main advantage of natural gas for electricity product was its ability to power gas turbines, which can be "spun up" (or down) fairly quickly in order to satisfy periods of high demand. How does natural gas powered CAES storage compare to simply having a larger installation of gas turbines, some portion of which will only be selectively spun up during peak demand?

  • your using natural gas to create electricity, to create compressed air, which is then stored then used at a later date to produce electricity... why not just not burn the gas in the first place and save that to create electricity?

  • Make sure it doesn't swallow an entire lake:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Peigneur [wikipedia.org]

  • wouldn't it be more efficient to just burn the natural gas for the energy and push out the middle man (in this case compressed air?) Otherwise are you just losing energy when you transfer it from one medium to the other?

Thufir's a Harkonnen now.