Impact initiative of the year - Europe: Storelectric Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) grid-scale initiative

Storelectic secured the Impact initiative of the year award for Europe for its pilot 'green' Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) project in the UK connecting 4GW of wind farm capacity to the grid, which is provisionally backed by a pension fund and another investor.

CAES provides renewable energy generators access to large-scale and long-duration storage, allowing them to turn intermittent power generation into dispatchable energy by compressing air to be stored in salt caverns ready to be dispatched to the grid on-demand.

Storelectic said that because this storage is before the energy reaches the grid, this allows renewable generation capacity to be linked to the power grid without the need to reinforce the grid connection – reducing grid reinforcement costs for grid operators and grid connection costs for renewable energy generators.

Storelectic chief technical officer Mark Howitt said awareness of the need such scales and durations of storage is "growing fast around the world" amid recognition of the limitations of batteries and interconnectors to cost-effectively and reliably power energy needs.

"Our plants have a 40-60-year life, without substantial deterioration, and are as efficient as (often, more efficient than) batteries over their lives, measured grid-to-grid including the entire plant," Howitt said. "Moreover, each of our plants delivers a range of concurrent services that would require a number of same-sized batteries to provide."

CAES plants can also deliver a range of balancing and stability services to the grid, including arbitrage, black-start and curtailment reduction services.

One Impact Awards judge applauded this as an "elegant solution to large problem," with another adding it was a "worthy initiative."

Howitt said that CAES also does not suffer from the issue of resource scarcity that batteries also struggle with – there is, for example, limited supply of lithium, cobalt and rare-earth metal required for batteries.

Although recognising this was a "big claim", Howitt said that with CAES "the energy transition can be affordable, reliable and resilient; without us, it probably can't."