A joint venture (JV) partnership to develop and construct long-duration liquid air energy storage (LAES) projects at scale in Latin America has revealed plans for its first project.
Highview Enlasa, formed as a 50:50 owned JV between UK-headquartered LAES technology provider Highview Power and Chilean backup power generation company Energia Latina SA Enlasa in October 2020, is planning a 50MW / 500MWh project in Chile’s Atacama region.
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Offering up to 10 hours of storage using Highview Power’s CRYOBattery technology, the system would represent investment of about US$150 million and would be placed in the city of Diego de Almagro. The CRYOBattery works by cooling ambient air until it liquifies at -196 °C (-320 ˚F). The air is then stored at low pressure until electricity is needed, at which point it is heated again to drive turbines as it expands.
Highview claims the systems can be built using relatively low-cost components that come off the shelf from other industries and could even enable people from the oil and gas industries an avenue of employment in clean energy, leaning on some of the mechanical expertise they already have. In fact the company recently selected MAN Energy Solutions, a subsidiary of Volkswagen better known for its diesel engines, to provide core turbomachinery to a 250MWh project under construction in the UK.
The Atacama region is one of the sunniest parts of the world and Highview Enlasa said that pairing the LAES system with solar power can enable 24/7 use of renewable energy. Chilean engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) group SK Ingenieria y Construccion has been picked out as EPC partner. The project is currently undergoing pre-feasibility engineering work ahead of environmental assessments later this summer, with construction expected to begin in the second half of 2023.
Chile is targeting 100% renewables in its electricity sector by 2050 and at least 60% by 2035 as well as committing to phasing out coal generation. Through auctions the government has supported a big build-out of large-scale solar and in 2020 already surpassed its 20% by 2025 target. The country’s first 3MW grid-scale solar project was constructed in 2012 but according to figures from Chilean renewable energy association ACER, by mid-2020 it had about 3GW of solar PV in operation and a further 3GW under construction. Also currently under construction in Chile is Latin America’s largest lithium-ion battery energy storage project so far at 112MW / 560MWh by AES Corporation.
Highview Power meanwhile is targeting the global need for long-duration bulk energy storage that it believes is coming down the line and is already here in some places. After a few years of validation of its technology including building a megawatt-scale demonstrator in England, the company is proceeding with its 50MW / 250MWh project in the UK, developing several large projects in the US and recently unveiled proposals for 2GWh split across seven projects in Spain.