A unique form of energy storage that many haven’t heard about has been around for decades. Compressed air energy storage (CAES) uses underground salt caverns to store air such as the one in McIntosh, Alabama.
The way it works is, electricity from the grid or a renewable source is used to pressurize the air. That compressed air is stored at a high-pressure underground. Then when it’s needed, the air is released, heated – in Alabama, natural gas is used to do this – and then expanded through a turbine to produce electricity. There are other companies that offer options that either negate or reduce the need for gas to re-heat air.
This form of renewable energy has a couple of benefits, one is that the compressed air can be stored for long periods of time up to a seasonal supply. Another benefit is depending on the size of the storage facility, gigawatts of power can be stored.
Like any other technology CAES has its challenges, the biggest is that this technology is very site-specific and requires the right geological structures in the ground. Given the right conditions, CAES could be feasible both technologically and economically as well as help the planet’s shift to renewable energy.
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