Gaelectric submits planning application for 330MW compressed air storage system in Northern Ireland

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Artists impression of CAES station site towards the northern end of Islandmagee. Credit: Gaelectric
Ireland-based renewable energy and storage firm Gaelectric has formally filed a planning application and environmental impact assessment for its 330MW compressed air energy storage (CAES) project in Northern Ireland.

Project-CAES Larne, which will require around £300 million (US$428 million) of investment, will be located on the peninsula of Islandmagee, east of Larne.

CAES technology involves storing compressed ambient air in an underground cavern. When electricity is required, the pressurised air is heated and expanded in an expansion turbine driving a generator for power production.

The Larne CAES Station is expected to incorporate two caverns within geological salt deposits at a depth of 1500-1700m with a size of around 150m x 60m. Only the east Antrim coast has suitable salt deposits for CAES in Ireland. There are a number of other suitable locations in the UK and on the European mainland.

The Larne project will also include marine and brine water pipelines and regional service connections for electricity and natural gas.

The system will generate up to 330MW of power for periods of up to six hours and will also create demand of 200MW during its compression cycle, according to a Gaelectric release.

The CAES project will help SONI, the Northern Ireland electricity transmission system operator, to perform grid balancing functions. Gaelectric also claims that the project will help Northern Ireland to protect itself from increased power prices and increase its energy security. The project will also assist with the integration of renewable energy projects.

In July 2015, the European Union agreed to provide financing of up to EUR6.47 million (US$7 million) to the project as it had been designated as a European Project of Common Interest (PCI).

Gaelectric expects 300 full time and part time jobs to be created during the construction phase and 35-52 jobs during operation.

The US Energy Storage Association claims there are only two existing CAES plants worldwide, which are located in Huntorf, Germany and in McIntosh, Alabama, USA, but there are several more plants in planning stages.

Last June, electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla joined force with Gaelectric on the first utility-scale energy storage project of its type in Ireland, which is expected to be connected to the grid this year.

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