Liquid air energy storage firm Highview to announce EPC tie-up this quarter

A fully integrated LAES system that was commissioned in July 2011 and ran until the end of 2014. Highview hopes large-scale versions will be commercialised soon. Pic: Highview Power Storage.

A fully integrated LAES system that was commissioned in July 2011 and ran until the end of 2014. Highview hopes large-scale versions will be commercialised soon. Pic: Highview Power Storage.

By Jason Deign

Liquid-air energy storage (LAES) developer Highview Power Storage is preparing to announce a tie-up with a major engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor this quarter.

The company already has a global licence agreement with GE Oil & Gas (now Baker Hughes) and has been “talking to all of the major blue-chip companies on the supply side,” said business development director Matthew Barnett.

He said Highview had been in discussions with EPC contractors about reducing LAES plant building lead times down to a level comparable to battery projects, such as 12 to 14 months.

“When an EPC company takes an interest in this technology, it’s interesting because they are the ones who can chop out a lot of the cost [and] really improve the delivery and lead time of getting the projects on the ground.”

News of the impending announcement comes as Highview prepares to cut the ribbon on its 5MW, 15MWh Pilsworth project in the coming months. 

Expanded scope at LAES demonstrator

Barnett told Energy Storage Report that Highview had expanded the scope of work at its LAES technology demonstrator, built alongside a Viridor landfill gas generation plant.

The main extra at the Pilsworth Landfill demonstrator facility in Bury, UK, is the addition of supercapacitors and flywheel technology to create a hybrid LAES system that can respond to grid frequency events within one second.

This will allow the plant to meet the requirements of the UK National Grid’s enhanced frequency response (EFR) and firm frequency response service provisions.

The upgrade is being financed with £1.5m of grant funding by Innovate UK, a national innovation agency. The Highview LAES technology was one of several pre-qualified for National Grid’s EFR tender in 2016.

With the hybrid plant development, which will use Siemens hardware to be installed this Spring, Highview hopes to be able to demonstrate how LAES could perform services for future EFR tenders.

“A lot of nice-to-have-services”

“There’s a lot of nice-to-have services that we can offer,” Barnett said.

“Aside from the hybrid plant providing enhanced frequency and reserve services, we could also provide voltage control and synchronous inertia response simply because of the type of equipment we are using.

“Plus, with the very low cost of additional tanks, the technology in hybrid form is very well suited to demand services and deferring transmission and distribution costs.”

Separately, Highview has been given £200,000 to validate the performance of the high-grade cold store at Pilsworth, which has already been in operation for several months.

“That has validated the models we’ve been developing over the years,” Barnett said.

Recent months have seen Highview beefing up its business to meet growing global demand. In January 2017, the company set up an office in New York to service increasing interest in the US market.

Barnett cited New York State as a potentially significant market for LAES. 

Requiring large amounts of storage

The state is looking to replace capacity lost from the Indian Point Energy Center nuclear plant, which is due to shut down in 2021, with mostly intermittent renewable generation that may require large amounts of storage.

And last month the company announced that prominent corporate financier Colin Roy, previously the CEO of Greenhill & Co Europe and co-founder of New York-based Greenhill & Co, had been appointed as chairman.

“I have long been a believer in Highview’s liquid air energy storage technology,” said Roy in a press release.

“It precisely addresses the three real requirements of the energy storage market: long duration, large scale and environmentally friendly.”

Highview’s technology relies on off-the-shelf oil and gas and petrochemical industry components, and large-capacity liquefied natural gas tanks that could potentially allow for many gigawatt-hours of storage, Barnett said. 

An operating lifespan of more than 25 years

The company also claims its technology, which involves using excess energy to liquefy air and then re-converting the air back to gas, at room temperature, to drive a turbine, could have an operating lifespan of more than 25 years.

Utilities and grid operators need anywhere from four hours to several days of energy storage capacity at large scale, which Highview’s liquid air technology delivers at lower cost than commercially available alternatives, he said.

LAES could provide storage of between four and 12 hours at “half the cost of lithium-ion,” he said. “We wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t competitive and compelling against lithium-ion.”

He claimed potential customers were particularly interested in using LAES to defer grid upgrade costs. “Offering something with true long duration is a compelling non-wires solution,” said Barnett.

Highview will be seeking a further round of funding, late this year or early next, that will be used to continue the company’s growth.

The LAES technology provider will be collaborating with “a strategic partner to help take the business to the next stage,” said Barnett.

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