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Using air and hydrostatic pressure to store energy underwater

By Mary Page Bailey |

Consisting of a land-based mechanical facility and underwater pipelines and accumulators, the underwater compressed-air energy-storage (UCAES) system from Hydrostor Inc. (Toronto, Ont., Canada; www.hydrostor.ca) takes electricity (potentially excess solar or wind energy) and uses it to run a compressor, which pressurizes atmospheric air, while also enabling the capture of the heat of compression. Once the pressure of the air is equal to the hydrostatic pressure of the nearby body of water where the accumulators are located, the air is sent through the pipeline to the accumulators, where it is stored until the UCAES system needs to produce energy. At this time, a valve is opened, allowing the weight of the water to push the air back through the pipeline to a network of heat exchangers, an expander and eventually a generator. Since the direction of airflow is controlled by simply opening a valve, this allows for “black start” — the system can be started without using additional power from the grid. The systems are designed for a specific application’s needs. A balance between water depth and the installation’s distance from land is key in selecting the best sites and sizing the compressor and turbo-expander, explains Hydrostor…
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