Compressed Air Solution May Help Store Green Energy Better

Reader Contribution by Kayla Matthews
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Every year more of us try to incorporate green energy into our daily lives. Whether it’s buying a hybrid or electric car, installing a solar panel on your property, or even making your house energy neutral, going green has never been so popular.

Now our challenge is to use renewable energy on a larger scale, particularly with our power grids. Thus far the two biggest obstacles have been fluctuation in consumer demand and an inability to store sources of green energy such as wind.

Two companies, the Canadian-based NRSTOR and American company General Compression, recently proposed a solution to this challenge, based on a study they financed together. The solution is Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES), which essentially means storing excess energy in salt caverns. If it succeeds, this new technology will change the way we use green energy. It will also impact the planet in a very positive way by reducing greenhouse gas emissions caused by traditional energy sources. Read on to learn more about CAES and its potential for changing the way we live.

What Exactly Is Compressed Air Energy Storage?

CAES is a new technology. Companies like NRSTOR are still developing it in a race to win business from utility companies. The premise of CAES is to store the surplus energy renewable sources sometimes generate so it can be put back in the grid at times of peak consumer demand or when green energy sources such as windmills underperform.

Similar technology has been used for natural gas compression, but this would be its first implementation with renewable energy. The implications are huge, both for people who care about the environment and for companies looking to cut costs and increase profitability.

CAES Will Make Renewable Energy Profitable and Efficient

Government investment in green energy companies was a source of controversy in the 2012 presidential election due to the bankruptcy of Solyndra and other profitability concerns. However, CAES would solve many of the current problems with using renewable energy in a profitable and reliable way.

For one thing, NRSTOR and General Compression predict that the use of CAES will cut up to $8 billion from Ontario’s energy costs over the next two decades. They will save money by eliminating the need to rely on expensive peaking plants, which are paid to provide extra power during times of high demand. Even times of lower demand currently cost the province money because it has to pay nuclear plants to reduce their production.

CAES will even out the grid during every level of demand, eliminating the expense incurred by varying trends in consumption. This saves Ontario and its taxpayers money. It also translates to lower energy costs for consumers.

We Can Reduce Our Carbon Footprint With CAES

Ontario made headlines last year when it closed its last coal-fired power plant. However, emissions are still produced by the aforementioned gas-fired peaking plants. By replacing peaking plants as the fill-in-the-gap energy source of choice, CAES can eliminate the future emissions such plants would put into the atmosphere.

Now imagine the use of CAES not just in Ontario but all over the world. Tons of greenhouse gases could be replaced by nonpolluting green energy. We could make this happen without government legislation or other penalties and incentives. All people would need to be motivated by is an appetite for cost-cutting and reliable power, an appetite already in existence. It’s no surprise, then, that the EU is already investing in CAES. With Canada and Europe leading the way on this new technology, the rest of the world won’t be far behind.

Photo credit Skitterphoto

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