Iowa Stored Energy Park - Types of Systems - Lake or Ocean Storage

Lake or Ocean Storage

Deep water in lakes and the ocean can provide pressure without requiring high-pressure vessels or drilling into salt caverns or aquifers. The air goes into inexpensive, flexible containers such as plastic bags below in deep lakes or off sea coasts with steep drop-offs. Obstacles include the limited number of suitable locations and the need for high-pressure pipelines between the surface and the containers. Since the containers would be very inexpensive, the need for great pressure (and great depth) may not be as important. A key benefit of systems built on this concept is that charge and discharge pressures are a constant function of depth. Carnot inefficiencies can thereby be reduced in the power plant. Carnot efficiency can be increased by using multiple charge and discharge stages and using inexpensive heat sources and sinks such as cold water from rivers or hot water from solar ponds. Ideally, the system must be very clever—for example, by cooling air before pumping on summer days. It must be engineered to avoid inefficiency, such as wasteful pressure changes caused by inadequate piping diameter.

A nearly isobaric solution is possible if the compressed gas is used to drive a hydroelectric system. However, this solution requires large pressure tanks located on land (as well as the underwater air bags). Also, hydrogen gas is the preferred fluid, since other gases suffer from substantial hydrostatic pressures at even relatively modest depths (such as 500 meters).

The University of Nottingham is one centre of research on seabed–anchored energy bags. E.ON, one of Europe's leading power and gas companies, has provided €1.4 million (£1.1 million) in funding to develop undersea air storage bags. Hydrostor in Canada is developing a commercial system of underwater storage "accumulators" for compressed air energy storage, starting at the 1 to 4 MW scale.

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