Compressed Air Energy Storage Technology Could Save Ontario $8 billion

General Compression energy storage system
Image courtesy of General Compression.

A new technology to store excess energy generated by green energy sources  could save Ontarioup to  $8 billion over a 20-year period, according to a study commissioned by NRStor and General Compression Inc.

Ontario has made great strides in eliminating carbon emissions, but there is more work to be done,” says Dr. Andrew Ford, author of the study and Professor Emeritus at Washington State University. “Renewable sources of energy can be unpredictable. Energy storage technology can make renewable energy available whenever it’s needed – and that will pay dividends for Ontario.”

The Benefits of CAES Technology

  • Fully integrated Renewables: While the majority of Ontario’s energy needs are met by nuclear and hydro-electric plants – sources of so-called ‘baseload generation’ – extra demand must be met by intermittent sources. Sometimes this can be met by solar or wind energy – but other times, it is met by gas-fired ‘peaking plants’.

    The owners of these plants receive ‘capacity payments’ whether or not the plants are operating. This is an expensive drag on resources. Investment in CAES technology could eliminate the need for these peaking plants, saving Ontario up to $5 billion.

  • Load levelling: While Ontario has periods of excess demand, it also has periods of excess supply – when total demand in Ontario is less than the generating capacity of the nuclear fleet and hydro stations. Ontario must pay the owners of nuclear operating stations a fee to reduce their output, which is charged back to ratepayers, on top of the need to spill water at hydro plants. CAES reduces the need for this service by absorbing surplus baseload energy and delivering it back into the grid when demand warrants, saving the province up to $2.6 billion.
  • Reduced carbon emissions: Ontario has achieved the single largest greenhouse gas reduction in North America by closing its coal-fired power plants. But as demand increases, so will carbon-emitting gas-fired generation, which is currently filling the gap. CAES can help curb these projected emissions through making wind investment more viable.

The study estimates that, through a combination of renewable energy integration and load leveling, 1000MW of CAES capacity could deliver between $6.5 billion and $8.3 billion in savings to Ontario ratepayers over 20 years, while reducing carbon emissions by 87 million tonnes over the same period.

“Grid management has always been a delicate balancing act,” says Annette Verschuren, CEO of NRStor. “Large-scale compression technology will give Ontario’s grid operators the flexibility they need to create a flexible, green 21st century electric system.”

NRStor is presently engaged in developing a 2MW CAES facility, in order to allow Ontario decisionmakers to see the benefits of the technology first-hand.

A successful 2MW pilot would lead to a 50-100MW commercial project, demonstrating the commercial viability of the technology to investors, eventually leading to large-scale investment on the scale envisioned by Dr. Ford.

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This post was prepared by Solar Thermal Magazine staff.

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