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Houston energy company wants to build battery in salt dome

Jordan Smith
By Jordan Smith November 1st, 2021
For business

Challenges and possibilities

The first main hurdle for Renewable Storage Company to clear is to secure financial backing for the project. They may be entering the market at just the right time. Recent reports indicate that investors have significantly expanded their support for battery storage technology. The Energy Information Administration projects that total battery storage installations will rise ten-fold compared to 2019 levels by 2023. Global research and analysis company, Wood Mackenzie, estimates that the battery storage market in the US will be worth $8.5 billion annually by 2026.

Another challenge the company is working on is how to make the battery as clean as possible. The compressed air needs to be heated when it’s pushed out of the salt dome so it can power the turbine. In other compressed air storage projects, this task is performed by natural gas.

However, the Renewable Storage Company wants to avoid the carbon emissions produced by burning natural gas. Instead, they’re proposing to use insulated concrete blocks. The blocks will be heated when air is pumped into the salt dome, and in turn, they can heat the air when it leaves. Renewable Storage has started a project to develop the technology with the federal Department of Energy.

Apex CAES (Compressed Air Energy Storage) opted to use natural gas to heat stored air at its mechanical battery project south of Dallas in Anderson County. The Bethel Energy Center will come online by 2025 and will store up to 317 megawatts of energy. Apex says its mechanical battery will operate for up to 48 hours.

Art Gelber, a founding member of the Renewable Storage Company, believes that the Greenstore battery could have the edge over its rivals. The fact that it produces no emissions will attract wind and solar producers, he says. Texas will soon require renewable energy producers to pay for backup energy sources to offset the variability of wind and solar.

“When it comes to making renewables more reliable power, generators and consumers don’t want to go backwards,” Gelber told the Houston Chronicle. “It is imperative that generators and consumers have a way to use 100 percent fossil-free energy all day, every day.”

What does this mean for me?

Texas electricity customers could benefit in various ways if the compressed air storage project and others like it go ahead. The growth of compressed air storage could result in Texas residents getting more power from renewable energy sources. The Texas electricity grid currently generates about 28 percent of its energy from renewables.

A significant factor preventing solar and wind from having a larger share is their variability. Compressed air storage could tackle this difficulty, making renewable energy facilities more reliable. A larger role for renewables would have the additional benefit of improving air quality. Poor air quality is an issue for some Texas communities located near fossil fuel-fired power plants.

Salt domes can store enough compressed air to generate energy for the grid for long periods of time. They could therefore provide an energy backup to provide a stable power supply during future emergencies. This backup supply may help prevent power outages like those seen during last February’s winter storm.

Jordan Smith is a writer and researcher with expertise in renewable energy and deregulated energy markets. Jordan has written extensively on the deregulated energy market in Texas and the challenges confronted in the clean energy transition, and conducted research projects within the energy industry. Further articles by Jordan can be found at SaveOnEnergy.com.

 

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