Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

East Texas Getting Compressed Air Energy Storage Plant

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the cranking-the-air dept.

Earth 248

First time accepted submitter transporter_ii writes "A compressed air energy storage (CAES) plant was first built in Germany in 1978, but East Texas will be the site of one of the world's first modern CAES plants. How does it work? A CAES power generation facility uses electric motor-driven compressors (generated by natural gas generators) to inject air into an underground storage cavern and later releases the compressed air to turn turbines and generate electricity back onto the grid, according to the plants owner. The location near Palestine, Texas was selected because of its large salt dome, which will be used to store the compressed air. The plant is estimated to cost $350 million-plus, and will create about 20 to 25 permanent jobs."

cancel ×

248 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

CASE or CAES? (-1, Offtopic)

acidfast7 (551610) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657219)

seri0usly?

Re:CASE or CAES? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40657343)

Is samzpenis a first-time editor, too?

Re:CASE or CAES? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40657453)

CASE = CAES Acronym Spelling Error

Re:CASE or CAES? (3, Funny)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 2 years ago | (#40658067)

uh oh, somebody's being case sensitive

20 perm jobs? (-1, Offtopic)

acidfast7 (551610) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657233)

also, there's no such thing as a perm job in the US, which the possible exception of a tenured prof.,which is debatable.

Re:20 perm jobs? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40657275)

They probably mean a job that isn't temporary (non-construction work) with no definite end date. Presumably the life span of this plant may exceed that of a persons lifetime employment (40 years).

Re:20 perm jobs? (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657387)

That's my interpretation, too. The job is permanent; the person filling it not so much. If the plant's expected minimum staff is 20, that means that at all times through the plant's life, 20 people will be employed (ideally). Of course, more may be brought on for construction, upgrades, or maintenance, but those wouldn't be considered permanent.

Re:20 perm jobs? (3, Informative)

Idaho (12907) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657379)

More importantly, I don't get why anyone would advertise that 350M is being spent to create 20 "permanent" positions. That's 17.5M per fulltime job!

Re:20 perm jobs? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40657457)

It's not a job creation scheme, it's supposed to make money for some power company. The jobs are being mentioned to make the locals feel better about having this thing nearby.

Re:20 perm jobs? (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657465)

More importantly, I don't get why anyone would advertise that 350M is being spent to create 20 "permanent" positions. That's 17.5M per fulltime job!

... for how many years, and does that 350M have any return? If those permanent positions are there for the next 50 years, and the plant starts making 50M per year in energy sales, then it's a pretty sweet deal.
Not that it necessarily will, but in your rush to compare two numbers, you missed the fact that there are several more involved.

Re:20 perm jobs? (2)

Jawnn (445279) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657709)

It's not (really) about the jobs. It's about spending public money to make some wealthy people that much wealthier. Yes, I said public money. If history is any indicator (an it usually is) the expense of providing the additional municipal services this project will require will fall to the taxpayers and not to the plant owners. In fact, those owners will probably get a tax break for creating all those jobs. You don't really buy all that bullshit about the payback from giving government handouts to "job creators", do you?

Re:20 perm jobs? (1, Troll)

jmerlin (1010641) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657893)

They forgot to Whitehouse-ify the numbers, clearly this is going to create over 10,000 jobs!

Re:20 perm jobs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40657959)

This obviously wasn't open bidding. I would have supplied 20 full-time positions for just $16M per job.

Re:20 perm jobs? (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657419)

also, there's no such thing as a perm job in the US

In this context, "permanent job" just means it's not a job that only lasts as long as it takes to build the thing, but continues after construction.

Maybe a better term would be "ongoing job" but since most everyone knows what is meant by "permanent job", I don't think there's a desperate need to change it.

Re:20 perm jobs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40657477)

perm from the viewpoint of the position not the person

PS you only get to complain about getting fired if you have never quit.... fair is fair

I wonder (-1, Flamebait)

platypussrex (594064) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657251)

what the environmentalists will use for an excuse for why this is evil... maybe compressed air is bad for subterranean cave bats?

Re:I wonder (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40657307)

It's bad for crab people, but I don't think they'll be able to use this one. The whole environmentalist movement was conceived by the underground crab people as a way to destroy humanity's industrial capabilities and thereby facilitate the crab people's takeover of the surface world. So, ironically, the environmentalists can't bring up the thread to subterranean crab people as this would mean admitting to existence of the conspiracy.

Re:I wonder (1)

game kid (805301) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657355)

As the summary notes (but the article doesn't seem to mention), the air is first compressed by natural gas-driven motors. That means such wonderful natgas procurement methods like fracking are ultimately involved.

I hope, at least, that using CAES is more efficient than just burning the natgas and twirling the turbines with that. (I doubt that but I'm no energy expert.)

Re:I wonder (5, Informative)

mysidia (191772) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657565)

I hope, at least, that using CAES is more efficient than just burning the natgas and twirling the turbines with that. (I doubt that but I'm no energy expert.)

It can be more efficient if wasted power generated is less, because power demand is highly variable. Burning straight up natgas may lead to waste, if not all the power generated is required. With CAES, all the output can be stored until needed, as long as there are no "leaks" in the underground cavern, and the rate of pressure loss isn't too high.

With CAES, the power generation output can possibly be more easily reduced, during off-peak hours, to match the demand, with less loss in efficiency, and without having to shutdown/fire up a certain number of natgas generators based on demand.

Re:I wonder (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657365)

what the environmentalists will use for an excuse for why this is evil...

Natural gas is being used to power the compressors, instead of power from intermittent wind or solar (at least according the summary, TFA doesn't say that).

Re:I wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40657589)

Could be the submitter got derailed by the mentioning of a nearby gas power plant in the article.

Ok, some quick searching found this: http://www.epa.gov/region6/6pd/air/pd-r/ghg/apex-bethel-app.pdf

Hrmf, i see no wind or solar in their setup. Best i can tell is that they buy electricity during non-peak, and use that to compress the air so that it can be released against to drive the turbines during peak. Almost as if they are acting as electricity speculators (buy low, sell high).

Re:I wonder (1)

Smallpond (221300) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657983)

what the environmentalists will use for an excuse for why this is evil... maybe compressed air is bad for subterranean cave bats?

I wonder what impurities the compressed air will pick up while its stored.

Apostrophe? (0)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657253)

"...according to the plants owner."

What does a guy who owns many plants know about compressed air storage power generation?

Well, while you are at it (1)

transporter_ii (986545) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657389)

Well, while you are at it, "generated by natural gas generators," should have been: natural-gas-powered generators or generators powered by natural gas.

Didn't really think it would get published.

Efficiency? (5, Interesting)

OpenSourced (323149) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657255)

Anybody knows how efficient is that? As compared with storage in water reservoirs for example?

Re:Efficiency? (1)

platypussrex (594064) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657267)

with Texas in the throws of a multi-year drought, it's not so much efficiency as it is possibility

Re:Efficiency? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40657287)

Terrible.
Hydraulically you are looking at around 85 percent for pumping and 90- percent for recovery.

Compressed air is probably 75 percent of that.

Re:Efficiency? (5, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657537)

Compressed air is probably 75 percent of that.

Depends how adiabatic the whole system can be made. Needs to be terribly well insulated to store the heat of compression. Dieseling the lube oil inside the compressor pistons is probably the limiting temp on the hot end.

Water storage loss is very low, evap and leakage. Compressed air heats up and you need that heat to stay in the tank or you lose the energy.

Also your example of 85% in and 90% out seems a bit messed up since .85*.90 is about 76.5% which compares favorably to your pneumatic air storage system.

Non-adiabatic systems like pneumatic control systems used in factories etc are ridiculously inefficient. You end up with a 10 HP compressor output an effective 1/4 HP of "machine". No one is seriously suggesting non-adiabatic systems, like house or car or factory size.

Re:Efficiency? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40657707)

The efficiency numbers for the hydraulic equipment is correct. A 75 or 80 percent transfer efficiency is typical of systems that pump into a tower and later run the water through a turbine.

 

Re:Efficiency? (1)

mlts (1038732) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657987)

The only way I see to get around this is to liquify the air and pour it in, similar to how LNG and LP gas is processed for storage. I doubt the liquid would last very long, but if this is done, there will be significantly more energy able to be stored because of both the temperature and pressure difference, as well as the phase change which happens at 330 bars/5000 psi at 68 degrees (F).

Re:Efficiency? (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657369)

The real question is, what does it cost per MW? CAES is cheap. In addition, it normally goes in where there is NOT good terrain for water storage. As such, this complements hydro, not competes against it. Likewise, we should be doing thermal storage which then has NG or atomic back-up. It is around 50% efficiency, but can be made more efficient with a little bit of RD. Thermal has the advantage of being able to be placed in the location of old coal plants.

Re:Efficiency? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40657505)

It's surely worse than gravitational storage. When you compress gas into the cave it increases in temperature. This heat energy is then lost into the surrounding earth.

Re:Efficiency? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40657799)

"Air Hogs" use compressed air power for aircraft which is one of the more demanding applicaitions for energy density.

The interesting thing about this is energy storage without chemical batteries.

A comparison to flywheels would be interesting.

Also comparing to a hydro-electric generation dam with the water resent into the dam after use somehow.

well if you ask me... (3, Funny)

malhombre (892618) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657259)

Sounds like a lot of hot air.

Do they gain energy due to seasons? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40657269)

So does the ground temperature change enough from one season to the next to give them a net increase in energy from winter to summer? If they're compressing air during the winter, when power consumption is lowest and renewable production (specifically wind) is highest, and decompressing during the summer, when it's the opposite, they could get a net increase in stored energy because the ground heats up, causing an increase in air pressure. That would be nice.

Re:Do they gain energy due to seasons? (5, Informative)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657357)

Likely not...earth is not a really good conductor of heat and the air temperature in caves tends to vary only slightly over the year.

Re:Do they gain energy due to seasons? (2)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657395)

This is located 30-50 meters or more in the ground. Season do not impact that low. However, what does is that compression heats the air, while the ground will take it from it. That is where you lose your efficiency.

Re:Do they gain energy due to seasons? (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657661)

However, what does is that compression heats the air, while the ground will take it from it. That is where you lose your efficiency.

When the ground takes sufficient heat from the air, the pressure will drop, causing a reduction in the work required to compress more air, and the pressure drop also makes the air less thermally conductive, so this is a self-correcting situation.

The air they are pumping in will probably be hot air.

The primary efficiency loss will likely be lost waste heat from the natural gas generators; not heat absorbed by the underground cavern.

Re:Do they gain energy due to seasons? (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657705)

Keep in mind that it is not just NG generators. They are taking excess power from the grid in the night time. Many wind systems are idled in the nights due to lack of demand. With this system, they will be able to pick up energy from Wind, and then if needed, pick it up from baseload generators.

Re:Do they gain energy due to seasons? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40658005)

They could build a datacenter nearby and use the cool uncompressed air for cooling. Then those losses wouldn't be a problem as you'd need cooling anyway.

Blowout at bean mountain. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40657271)

I'm thinking if this system accidentally vents, it'll be the biggest fart in history.

Re:Blowout at bean mountain. (0, Flamebait)

NEDHead (1651195) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657301)

It is Texas. One more big fart won't even be noticed until he runs for president.

Re:Blowout at bean mountain. (1)

hlavac (914630) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657329)

I wonder what a full rupture will look like...

Re:Blowout at bean mountain. (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657401)

No, that would be the CO2 from a lake in Africa that earned that. Many animals and ppl died.

Re:Blowout at bean mountain. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40657481)

Om the way home from LinuxCon 2000, we stopped at Taco Bell to get some grub and take a shit. Keep in mind this is after a week of pizza, beer, jolt, doritos, cheetos, etc. Anyhow, Cowboy Neil is shoving tacos in his face so fast I'm not sure why his fingers haven't been bitten off. Then he stops. Dead cold, no motion except the sweat trickling down his face. We hear a rumble and he gets up and runs (or waddles at a high speed) towards the bathroom. We're cracking jokes about it but after 15 minutes, he's still not out. I get up for a piss and when I enter the bathroom, the stench made my eyes water. I almost threw up then and there. I didn't get a good luck, but I think there was shit everywhere. Anyhow, nobody died but two people were taken to the emergency room. To this day, Cowboy Neil can use the Taco Bell drive through but isn't permitted inside.

Re:Blowout at bean mountain. (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657581)

I'm thinking if this system accidentally vents, it'll be the biggest fart in history.

Wait till some PHB builds a system like this in coal fire country. Centralia PA.

Good luck (1)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657277)

Hope it works. There are lots of salt domes on the Gulf Coastal Plain.

Units? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40657309)

>> The plant is estimated at 350 million-plus

Units are?

Need more (0)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657317)

My belief is that America's (actually, the west's) real issue is that we have a lack of storage. The best thing is to put forward a time-limited subsidy, say 5 years, that starts high and drops over a 5 year period. It should be for all storage that is manufactured locally, and not allowed to be exported until subsidies end. More importantly, it should NOT be limited to what some politician picks.

What? (1)

Sam36 (1065410) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657319)

This seems stupid. What is the advantage? Why can't they just burn the natrual gas to make the electricity instead of turning a compressor to compress gas to turn a turbine .... -___-

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40657353)

Seems like it would be cheaper to just store the natural gas in the cavern... =S

Re:What? (2)

arisvega (1414195) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657567)

What is the advantage?

It is to store the power: currently, there are no batteries capable of doing that. A major problem with the power generated from solar panels and any kind of turbine (wind, for example) is that it will be lost if you don't use it on the same turn.

I am not sure if that's what you asked, because your point may also be "why they are burning the natural gas to run this power storage facility, since power is already stored in the gas and they can burn it when they need it". In that case, it could be a matter of money: the gas is available now, and it is cheap. So maybe they want to store that energy as fast and cheap as possible, and sell it as pricey as possible later. I don't know.

Re:What? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657645)

What is the advantage? Why can't they just burn the natrual gas to make the electricity instead of turning a compressor to compress gas to turn a turbine

Latency and cost.

A 1 MW air turbine is cheaper than a 1 MW natgas turbine, but depressingly not much cheaper. Temps are lower so you can use cheaper alloys / spin it faster and you don't have to deal with igniters and gas injection. I'm sure it ends up being about the same cost in the end as just storing natgas in the tank and burning it.

The latency is a big deal. I would imagine there is backlash in the gearing that limits reaction speed to "fraction of a second but probably a lot longer than half a 60 hz cycle". So if a gust front simultaneously hits every windmill in TX the valve can slam shut, or if a miles long alien space ship instantly warps in and shades all the solar panels in TX the air valve can slam open.

Natgas turbines react a bit slower. Fast, but not as fast as an air valve.

Re:What? (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657927)

Forget about natural gas. They're not burning natural gas, nor are they generating any electricity. They are only storage. They are proposing a 317MW storage facility, with no specified storage capacity, that is one county away from an existing ~1.2GW natural gas power plant.

Re:What? (1)

texas neuron (710330) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657939)

They are not going to burn natural gas (at least not in their turbines) to store the air. Average wholesale prices in Texas are less than $80 per MWH, peak is $3000 per MWH during summer months, over-night gets close to $0 in areas with lots of wind turbines and constrained transmission lines. They will buy when prices are cheap overnight (nuclear plants don't like to slow down, wind mills max out in most of Texas, harder to spin up and down coal plants) and sell during peak loads during the day. Unclear to me what is the plant capacity to work out a $/day formula.

This cannot possibly be efficient (5, Informative)

infogulch (1838658) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657347)

When your compress air it heats up, increasing the pressure and making it harder to compress more air.

After it's been in the ground for a while it cools back down to ambient temperatures.

Then when you're extracting it the air is expanding which makes it cool down and reduces the pressure, therefore reducing the practical energy you can get out of it.

This is basic stuff you learn in Chemistry I.

Re:This cannot possibly be efficient (5, Informative)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657407)

100% efficient? Nope. Still it is better than 75% efficient. The real issue is what is the COSTS / MW? With this approach, a utilitiy company can skip the on-demand systems (typically turbine running NG, or a coal plant that is running low). These are EXPENSIVE to run. With 50% or better efficiency, a company can simply put on AE, Nukes, even NG boilers and then store energy at night, and use this for the variable demands.

Re:This cannot possibly be efficient (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40657441)

Doesn't have to be efficient, just has to make money.

I bet electricity fetches a good price in peak air-con hours, enough to pay for the efficiency loss.

Re:This cannot possibly be efficient (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40657931)

I learned it in Physics...

Re:This cannot possibly be efficient (1)

infogulch (1838658) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657957)

They overlap some.

350 million-plus *what*? (4, Insightful)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657349)

Square feet?

Cubic yards?

Kilowatt-hours?

Bottles of Lone Star BBQ Sauce?

Ping-pong balls?

Dollars?

Re:350 million-plus *what*? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40657393)

From context, the answer is fairly obviously "dollars".

Re:350 million-plus *what*? (-1)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657423)

Way to miss the point.

Re:350 million-plus *what*? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40657613)

Which was?

Re:350 million-plus *what*? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40657641)

Way to not say anything intelligent in 2 posts.

Re:350 million-plus *what*? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40657413)

Artichokes per hedgehog second, I guessing.

Re:350 million-plus *what*? (1)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657473)

Artichokes per hedgehog second, I guessing.

Sounds reasonable.

I've some hedgehogs living in the bushes under my balcony and a Chairman Mao 100th Birthday commemorative pocket watch with a working second hand. Not sure if you can grow artichokes round here or not, though.

Re:350 million-plus *what*? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40657433)

Well, you really are well named.

Re:350 million-plus *what*? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40657435)

Square feet?

Cubic yards?

Kilowatt-hours?

Bottles of Lone Star BBQ Sauce?

Ping-pong balls?

Dollars?

It's the BBQ sauce. In other news, I'm now a firm believer in the "Slashdot editing is going to hell" movement.

Re:350 million-plus *what*? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40657903)

i'm with u. i thought it meant it would cost $350 million-plus cubic yards because that's a real form of currency and i say that will all confidence. honestly, it wasn't obvious to you. the plant is in Texas. it would cost $350 million-plus. put those two together. Texas. $. Texas. $. you fuckin think it's a Euro? a dubloon? aus dollar?

Texas $
Texas $

Maybe the East Texas threw you off. I know I first thought of East Texas Malaysia myself.

figuring this out isn't on the level of unifying QM and classical physics, Mr Whiny-pants.

Natural gas? (1)

redneckmother (1664119) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657373)

Hmmm... perhaps my comprehension is suffering because of my advanced age, but I didn't see anything in TFA about the use of natural gas to power the compressors.

Since (I think) gas fired generators are fairly efficent, and can quickly respond to demand changes on the grid, why would one wish to lose the energy required to perform the compression?

It would make more sense to me to store energy from the many Wind Farms, which are horribly inefficient (and costly) in a grid system.

Re:Natural gas? (1)

slimjim8094 (941042) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657445)

It looks like they're saying the grid powers the motor, and the majority of the local generation is NG. Powering the compressors with locally-generated electricity would just be a fantastically stupid power plant.

Re:Natural gas? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40657469)

Not necessarily, there may be money to be made if this thing guzzles cheap power all night so it can ejaculate expensive power during peak air-con hours.

Re:Natural gas? (2)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657511)

"It would make more sense to me to store energy from the many Wind Farms, which are horribly inefficient (and costly) in a grid system."

I agree. Up here in the Northwest, we have a ton of wind farms that are intentionally idled when our Cascades reservoirs are full and they have to dump water--they don't want to waste the energy stored in the form of water but are perfectly willing to power-down huge wind farms that are producing electricity at the same time. This technology would solve that problem for both hydroelectric and wind farms--they could both use this storage technology provided it was centrally located and both had access to it.

It's all about the money and hamstringing the new guy on the block, so I assume that is the reason natural gas is the selected means of generation. Now all I have to wonder about is whether or not the folks doing this also patented the technology. If they did, that does not bode well for the alternative energy market as this technology would solve most of their problems, provided it could be reproduced on a large scale and not just where salt domes exist. For those of you that don't know, Texass is littered with salt domes that have already been pumped dry--they once held oil. Never thought I'd see the day when they started pumping money back down those holes.

Re:Natural gas? (1)

DamonHD (794830) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657519)

Are you trolling? What is 'inefficient' about a generator whose fuel is free, compared to (say) sub-50% thermal efficiency from burning coal (and dumping various toxic and radioactive nasties on your neighbours)?

Rgds

Damon

Re:Natural gas? (1)

redneckmother (1664119) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657857)

Are you trolling? What is 'inefficient' about a generator whose fuel is free, compared to (say) sub-50% thermal efficiency from burning coal (and dumping various toxic and radioactive nasties on your neighbours)?

Rgds

Damon

You must've missed the "in a grid system" part. Wind Farms are notoriously inefficient and unreliable in a grid system. They usually provide maximum output when the demand is low, and minimum (or NO) output when the demand is high. Hence, the grid has events like the rolling blackout in the DFW area several years ago (the winds in West Texas died, and too many conventional plants had been idled).

Grids that have wind in them also have conventional plants up and running (spinning reserve) to take up the slack when the wind stops, negating much of the "free" power on a grid.

Re:Natural gas? (1)

DamonHD (794830) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657963)

Simply isn't how it works in most grids: it's not the wind's fault if it's managed badly.

So "notoriously inefficient and unreliable" is simply inflammatory and incorrect.

No generator is completely free nor perfectly reliable: nukes trip out without warning causing blackouts for example, as do coal and gas plants.

Rgds

Damon

Natural gas? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40657383)

Why not use solar or wind to run the compressors?

The storage would negate solar and winds biggest drawbacks. No solar at night. Not always windy.

Using natural gas to drive compressors instead of just making electricity just seems like a waste. Natural gas generator plants can already be brought online in seconds and don't NEED storage....

Jackpot! (1)

DrJimbo (594231) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657399)

Someone must have patents on that technology. Will East Texas continue to be so patent friendly when they are going to be receiving the sharp end of the stick?

Count the grammatical errors! (0, Redundant)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657403)

First time accepted submitter transporter_ii writes, and apparently first-time editor samzenpus edits:

A compressed air energy storage (CAES) plant... ...world's first modern CASE plants.

Oops - CAES has just become CASE.

A CAES power generation facility uses electric motor-driven compressors (generated by natural gas generators)

I think you mean "powered."

according to the plants owner.

Apostrophe!

The plant is estimated at 350 million-plus

350 million plus what?

Why not use Solar to compress the air? (2)

cryfreedomlove (929828) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657409)

This sounds like an interesting energy storage system. Storage is exactly what is needed to make solar energy generation practical for use when the sun is not shining at night. That idea gets me excited.

Generating the energy to fill the storage with compressed air by burning Natural Gas (NG) seems stupid to me. It is more efficient to just leave the energy stored as NG. Converting that to compressed air and then again to electricity adds a middle step that adds inefficiency.

Re:Why not use Solar to compress the air? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40657461)

Why not store thunder energy as compressed air?

Re:Why not use Solar to compress the air? (1)

the_B0fh (208483) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657485)

Watch out for the Thundercats prowling around...

Re:Why not use Solar to compress the air? (1)

Howitzer86 (964585) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657501)

Wind turbine power too, but yeah, solar powered compression makes sense for Texas.

Re:Why not use Solar to compress the air? (1)

EvolutionInAction (2623513) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657507)

Some kinds of power plants need a minimum load or have significant ramp times to hit a target power output. Hydro is great because you can scale to meet demand really easily, but boiler-based plants, not so much. (You have to heat a huge amount of mass to increase the power output.) So if you adjust the baseline of the boiler plant to slightly lower than would otherwise be necessary, and use a storage station to meet the peaks, this kind of thing works out quite well.

Re:Why not use Solar to compress the air? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40657513)

My guess would be that they want to confirm that the new compressed air energy storage plant works first before attempting a solar version.

Walk before you run.

This could also be used for tidal, wind, and a number of other intermittent power solutions.

Re:Why not use Solar to compress the air? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40657517)

Yay! A huge dome full of gas! And if texas is cold just throw a lighter in there!

Re:Why not use Solar to compress the air? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40657525)

Generating the energy to fill the storage with compressed air by burning Natural Gas (NG) seems stupid to me. It is more efficient to just leave the energy stored as NG. Converting that to compressed air and then again to electricity adds a middle step that adds inefficiency.

Thats not the point. No one is going to run NG generators just to store the energy from them...

What this is for is to take grid power (which is generated primarily by NG generators) during offpeak times when there is surplus power and store it for use during peak load periods.

In other words it will (in theory) allow the local grid to get away with having fewer NG generators, since the CAES will compensate for some percentage of the power required to meet peak load. Store the power generated when it isn't needed so that you can use it when it is. In a nutshell it is a very large battery backup.

Re:Why not use Solar to compress the air? (1)

SeanDS (1039000) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657531)

This sounds like an interesting energy storage system. Storage is exactly what is needed to make solar energy generation practical for use when the sun is not shining at night. That idea gets me excited. Generating the energy to fill the storage with compressed air by burning Natural Gas (NG) seems stupid to me. It is more efficient to just leave the energy stored as NG. Converting that to compressed air and then again to electricity adds a middle step that adds inefficiency.

You're right. That's why gas power plants are also silly*. Gas is burned to produce electricity (at efficiencies of no more than about 20-30%), which could then conceivably be used in an electric fire to heat up someone's house. In this situation, the energy storage mechanism has along the line switched from chemical to electrical to thermal, with heavy losses at each stage. Would have been far more efficient to pipe the gas into the same person's house to burn for heat.

The spirit of using compressed air as a storage mechanism is surely in the theoretically high efficiencies that can be achieved. Using gas, as you say, sounds silly, especially when it's Texas, with its vast untapped solar potential.

*ASIDE: Silly, though currently necessary as a fast response mechanism to electricity grid supply/demand mismatches. In the UK, we have three pumped storage facilities of about 50MW each (or thereabouts). Considering the post-EastEnders surge (when 5 million kettles are switched on following the nation's favourite daily TV soap) regularly tops 500MW of demand, you can see why pumped storage alone is not the answer. Interestingly, we have to borrow power from Europe for 5 minutes during this time to cover demand.

Re:Why not use Solar to compress the air? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40657637)

*ASIDE: Silly, though currently necessary as a fast response mechanism to electricity grid supply/demand mismatches. In the UK, we have three pumped storage facilities of about 50MW each (or thereabouts).

Really? Dinorwig alone can provide 1890MW

http://www.esru.strath.ac.uk/EandE/Web_sites/03-04/wind/content/storage%20available.html

Re:Why not use Solar to compress the air? (1)

Rising Ape (1620461) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657833)

Gas is burned to produce electricity (at efficiencies of no more than about 20-30%),

More like 60% for modern CCGTs. Even older ones should be above 50%, if they haven't been scrapped due to low efficiency.

Re:Why not use Solar to compress the air? (1)

Bobartig (61456) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657541)

I don't know why solar isn't being used, but on the burning of natural gas, it sounds like the purpose of a compressed air reservoir is that it can generate large amounts of power on demand, so it acts like a large battery that helps to ease peak demand spikes. From the article:

According to Apex’ website, compressed air energy storage (CAES) is unique in its ability to efficiently store and redeploy energy on a large scale in order to provide low-cost energy and enhance grid reliability.

Makes it sound more like a giant on-demand battery, which is why it would be preferable to leaving the energy in natural gas, which cannot be converted into usable electricity as rapidly. It's obviously less efficient, but natural gas perhaps simply cannot generate the output they need.

350 million vaginas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40657475)

That is how I prefer to think of it

Re:350 million vaginas (1)

turkeyfeathers (843622) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657779)

Really... how many East Texas woman have you met?

it will be either a cool energy storage medium (2)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657543)

or the most unique way to asplode a salt dome yet invented

Proof reading -- not here! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40657569)

Slahshdot editors proof read posts? Unpossible.

Note: CAES != CASE. Oops! Samzenpus, please try harder in future.

They're storing air in an underground bubble... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40657791)

at least if the bubble bursts, there'll be no question about whether or not it happened!

Honestly though, wouldn't it make millions of times more sense to use tidal energy from the gulf, or wind-farm energy or solar energy? The biggest selling point of natural gas is on-demand power, the biggest detraction of wind and sun power (and wave power) is that its availability is not consistent over short periods of time. Some days it rains, some days the winds are calm, some days the seas are flat... just the place you need to store energy for on-demand return.

Something about this just doesn't add up. I suppose though, storing energy could be a good hedge against fluctuations in energy costs, but who really does that benefit? If that's the main (or only) purpose of building this thing, the general public doesn't benefit at all, only the guys who own the thing.

This is why we need a supergrid. (1)

XiaoMing (1574363) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657929)

The first CAES plant, a 290 megawatt facility, was built in Huntorf, Germany in 1978.

The Bethel Energy Center is slated to be a 317 megawatt facility which is about one-quarter of the size of a gas-powered plant near Richland Chambers in Freestone County, according to Farley.

So a few decades later, we are going to be the cutting edge in building something with effectively the same operational capacity as the original? Keep in mind these things are just giant batteries that use air pressure, and I'm assuming the same electric motors that pump air in will extract energy when the air comes back out, with a ~80-90% efficiency either way.

We spending a third of a billion dollars to push air around like they did in the 70's.

Recovering the energy (2)

Klaxton (609696) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657935)

I did some looking around at this about a year ago and it turns out that the compressed air expands and therefore cools so much that unless you preheat it everything will ice up. In fact the recovery unit is typically a NG turbine. Exhaust heat from the turbine preheats the compressed air which is then mixed with NG and fed into the turbine to get boosted combustion. Much more efficient than compressed air alone.

What a fucking useless waste (1, Insightful)

Khyber (864651) | more than 2 years ago | (#40657995)

Going from natural gas, to electricity, to compressed air?

Just go from CNG to elec or convert plants to run on CNG.

What the fuck, Texas Engineers?

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?