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  • In a world in desperate need to go carbon-free,

  • solar, wind, and renewables are the future.

  • But our present ability to store their excess energy falls short.

  • In fact, most of the time, that power goes missing.

  • Of the many solutions swirling around, airor rather, compressed air

  • seems to be sweeping some in the energy sector off their feet.

  • Compressed air energy storage, or CAES, takes advantage of air's ability to be stored

  • in the form of elastic potential energy until we're ready to use it.

  • Lauded as a sustainable way to make renewables the world's go-to energy source,

  • this storage system could be the one we've all been waiting for.

  • But we're currently grappling with modernizing the world's power grid.

  • A major challenge is to make renewables reliable in every situation, not just on sunny, cloud-free days.

  • These energy sources need to befirmed,” meaning that they give energy on-demand.

  • As of present, large-scale lithium-ion batteries are the most developed technology

  • used to store and distribute this energy,

  • and are already being readily adopted by renewable power sites across the globe.

  • But as we probably all know by now, work remains to be done to prolong the lifespan of these batteries

  • and make them less expensive.

  • So as the search for long-duration storage solutions continues, what have we got so far?

  • Well, one contender is compressed air storage.

  • The technology is kind of like a giant version of the canned air that blows crumbs loose from your keyboard,

  • except that instead of storing gases in liquid form,

  • CAES involves converting electrical energy into high-pressure air, which is later released to drive a turbine.

  • Theoretically, CAES could be a cheaper, more sustainable alternative to batteries.

  • And since its based off technology that has long been used by the oil and gas industry,

  • the foundational knowledge is there, ready to be worked on and improved.

  • But there are a few things holding it back.

  • Conventional CAES systems require having a place, like an existing or solution-mined rock cavern,

  • that's big and stable enough to store compressed air at a high pressure.

  • This geographical limitation has meant that the technology can't always live

  • where grid needs are greatest.

  • Then there's the issue of conventional CAES systems not storing the thermal energy

  • that's generated during charging.

  • As air is compressed, it heats up, and as air expands, it cools down.

  • If the thermal energy generated during compression isn't stored,

  • a large chunk of energy during charging is lost to the atmosphere.

  • To circumvent this problem, conventional CAES systems heat the air prior to expansion by burning natural gas,

  • which not only deteriorates the system's efficiency but seems utterly pointless if we want a greener system.

  • For these reasons, CAES hasn't taken offthere's actually only been two plants built to date.

  • But the Canadian company Hydrostor still thinks that renewables and CAES

  • or rather, what they callAdvancedCAESmake a perfect pair.

  • While their core idea is nothing new, their approach is different.

  • Rather than relying on salt caverns to store air like conventional CAES systems,

  • Hydrostor can also use hard-rock caverns, which can be built at practically any site.

  • Using subsurface caverns that are connected to a ground-level water reservoir,

  • compressed air is sent down to the cavern to be stored, displacing water up a shaft to the reservoir.

  • When there's a power need, water is allowed to flow back into the cavern,

  • forcing the compressed air back to the facility.

  • This technique improves the system's efficiency and reduces the amount of space

  • needed to store the compressed air.

  • It also means that the system can be deployed near places where energy is most needed, like cities.

  • And to avoid those pesky thermal energy losses?

  • Hydrostor's technology stores the heat generated during charging

  • and reintroduces it to the air prior to discharge,

  • eliminating the need to burn gas altogether.

  • A Hydrostor plant can currently recover about 6 units of electricity for every 10 that it stores.

  • That's about a 60% efficiencysignificantly better than the 40% of traditional CAES systems.

  • While work remains to be done, Hydrostor already has a 1MW demonstration facility

  • up and running in Toronto, Ontario,

  • and their 2MW commercial contracted facility in Goderich, Ontario was just completed.

  • They're now bidding to expand out with much larger projects

  • ranging in capacity from 20-500MWin the U.S., Canada, Chile, and Australia.

  • So will Hydrostor's take on CAES be the storage technology that renewables need

  • to kick fossil fuels for good?

  • Time and investment in the tech will soon tell whether the idea behind compressed air storage

  • is just a bunch of hot air, or a system that will let us draw from 100% renewables, 100% of the time.

  • For more innovative tech like this, check out this video on a company that's capturing carbon

  • and storing it underground.

  • If you liked this episode, let us know in the comments below.

  • Don't forget to subscribe for more Seeker and thanks for watching.

In a world in desperate need to go carbon-free,

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この新技術は再生可能エネルギーの貯蔵方法に革命を起こす可能性がある (This New Tech Could Revolutionize How We Store Renewable Energy)

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    林宜悉 に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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