GE inks liquid-air storage pact

Industrial giant GE has inked a global licensing and collaboration deal with UK liquid air energy-storage (Laes) outfit Highview Power Storage (HPS).

Through the tie-up, being run by GE's oil and gas arm, the two companies plan to investigate Laes technology's potential as an add-on to gas-power back-up "peaker plants" that would boost efficiency and grid-reliability, as well as for future renewable energy distribution.

“Highview’s readily available Laes technology, with its ease of implementation and access to an operational pilot plant, makes it an ideal partner for GE Oil & Gas to provide fully integrated energy solutions to our customers,” says Luca Maria Rossi, product management general manager for GE Oil & Gas's Turbomachinery Solutions business.

HPS chief executive Gareth Brett adds: "The use of our Laes technology with GE’s solutions for flexible peaker plants will help make a significant contribution to balancing the electrical network of the future."

Highview’s Laes concept, running as a grid-connected 350-kW/2.5MWh pilot near London for utility SSE since 2011, uses liquid air or nitrogen as the storage medium for a "long-duration" energy storage system.

Last month, the UK Department of Energy & Climate Change awarded HPS and Viridor, a recycling and waste management company, more than £8m to build a 5MW/15MWh Laes demonstrator.

The new facility, which will house a GE turbo-generator, is designed to demonstrate the technology at commercial scale for the first time. Switch-on is slated for spring 2015.

HPS's Laes system is scaleable from 5-50MW.

Laes technologies are expected to become central to the renewable energy industries as they can take-up excess output during periods of surplus production and release power on to the grid during supply-demand shortfalls.

“Operators increasingly need to integrate intermittent and non-dispatchable renewable energy sources into the current energy grid,” GE’s Rossi notes. “Energy storage is an application that can help address this need.”