Yesterday, PSEG Global LLC, announced a partnership with energy storage expert, Dr. Michael Nakhamkin, to form Energy Storage and Power LLC in order to promote a new generation of Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) technology. CAES is an innovative process of trapping energy generated by nearly any mass electrical generation technique, and storing it in the form of compressed air, in reservoirs secured within the earth.
CAES technology functions by compressing air during off-peak hours, that is then pumped underground into air tight mines and reservoirs. Later during peak energy consumption periods, the compressed air is released and heated using small amounts of natural gas to power a turbine which creates electricity. This process removes the need to use natural gas to both heat and compress the air during peak periods. Electrical rates can be better balanced to deal with hot summers and cold winters.
More balanced electrical rates are not the only benefit to using this technology. Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, can be used to initially compress the air before it is pumped into the ground. This gives the electrical grid more freedom from the disadvantages of the intermittent processes of generating electricity from solar and wind technologies. Energy can thus be stored for future use during the night in the case of solar plants and in periods of calm in relation to wind farms.
The drawback to Compressed Air Energy Storage currently lies in the fact that it still contributes to emissions by requiring natural gas to heat the air being pumped from the reservoirs. Though this amount of natural gas is smaller than traditional gas power plants, CAES can not claim to be a true environmentally friendly technology, just yet. Since natural gas is a finite resource, this is not a viable long term solution in its current state.
PSEG and Dr. Nakhamkin hope to build upon past successes of CAES and develop a technology that is scalable to the current needs of cities and renewable resources projects. With future innovations, it may be possible to utilize this technology in conjunction with alternative energy sources to create a truly emission free, renewable source of cheap energy.
This technology could prove to be a beneficial addition to areas such as Iowa that already generate large amount of wind energy. Current project plans of the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities hope to design a CAES system with a 200MW capacity fed from a 100MW wind farm. This could prove wind power is a viable resource and reliable technology to further promote.