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Sarah Zhang of Gizmodo brings us the interesting news of a The Plan to Store Wind Energy In Giant Underwater Air Bubbles,  well, actually, they would be stored in compressed air inside giant balloons deep underwater, displacing highly pressurized deep sea water.  

Like many good ideas, the seeds of compressed-air energy storage, or CAES, were sowed long ago, in the 1870s. Today, a handful of operations store energy as compressed air in sealed-off caves or pipe systems. But that's all on land. Bringing CAES deep underwater, where water pressure naturally keeps air compressed, is a novel and tantalizing idea for the massive offshore wind farms of the future.

In August, IEEE Spectrum reports, the Toronto-based Hydrostor will make the first commercial deployment of underwater CAES technology. It'll use electricity to fill several balloon-like bags tethered to the bottom of Lake Ontario with compressed air. To turn that stored air back into electricity, they'll run the compressed air through a turboexpander.

Proponents of CAES have their sights set on grand scales. Maxim de Jong, CEO of Thin Red Line Aerospace—a company that also makes the energy bags—recently calculated how underwater CAES would be used to store energy from the London Array, currently the largest offshore wind array in the world. One day's worth of energy from the array would require 812,000 cubic meters of compressed air, or a whopping 27,500 of his company's five-meter diameter balloons. If we made much bigger balloons, say 41 meters in diameter, de Jong calculates you'd only need 23 of them.

A commercially viable way to store large amounts of energy generated by wind would constitute a significant breakthrough, as the variability of wind places a cap on the fraction of the total electrical generation wind can make up.

Also, storage provides generators the ability to sell their energy a the most profitable time.

The article provide no details on the economics of this system, or how efficient this storage is. How fascinating it is to watch a new technology, and industry churn through such creative processes to seek solutions to every problem that arises.

I can't wait to see prototypes installed so we can start seeing data.

Originally posted to SciTech on Tue Jul 15, 2014 at 08:35 PM PDT.

Also republished by Kosowatt, PostHuffPost: Connection-Conversation-Community , And Now for Something Completely Different , and Climate Change SOS.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (38+ / 0-)

    Humor Alert! No statement from this UID is intended to be true, including this one. Intended for recreational purposes only. Unauthorized interpretations may lead to unexpected results. This waiver void where prohibited. Artistic License - 420420

    by HoundDog on Tue Jul 15, 2014 at 08:35:36 PM PDT

  •  Sounds like a possibility (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HoundDog, palantir

    in Arizona maybe.

    Undersea storage of air sounds a bit off.

    "...we live in the best most expensive third world country." "If only the NEA could figure out all they have to do is define the ignorance of the next generation as a WMD..." ---Stolen from posts on Daily Kos

    by jestbill on Tue Jul 15, 2014 at 09:38:21 PM PDT

    •  But, there isn't any undersea water in AZ! (10+ / 0-)

      Humor Alert! No statement from this UID is intended to be true, including this one. Intended for recreational purposes only. Unauthorized interpretations may lead to unexpected results. This waiver void where prohibited. Artistic License - 420420

      by HoundDog on Tue Jul 15, 2014 at 09:43:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Golly! Yer right! (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        HoundDog

        My mistake.

        Likely I was thinking the undersea stuff was a waste of effort.  Compressed air energy storage could actually work.

        But that's just me...will the windmills be running mechanical pumps to compress the air?  If not, why bother putting the air under water?  If so, it'll be awhile before they build any.  Design sounds like a challenge.

        "...we live in the best most expensive third world country." "If only the NEA could figure out all they have to do is define the ignorance of the next generation as a WMD..." ---Stolen from posts on Daily Kos

        by jestbill on Tue Jul 15, 2014 at 10:51:53 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Did you ever see Casablanca? I was setting you (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Gwennedd

          up for an easy home run.

          In the beginning of the film two refugees ask the Boghart character what brought him to Casablanca.

          He says gruffly, "the waters."

          "But there are no waters in Casablanca!"

          He says, "I was misinformed."

          This is one of my favorite of many great lines in that film.

          It might  be worth rerunning this whole post just so we could do this joke right.

          lol

          Humor Alert! No statement from this UID is intended to be true, including this one. Intended for recreational purposes only. Unauthorized interpretations may lead to unexpected results. This waiver void where prohibited. Artistic License - 420420

          by HoundDog on Wed Jul 16, 2014 at 11:56:29 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  you could use a water seal (0+ / 0-)

        big empty cavern down below plus a

        clever valve system.

  •  Hmmm... that's a very interesting idea (12+ / 0-)

    You're pumping against a constant pressure and retrieving the compressed air at a constant pressure. I'm not a mechanical engineer, but I'd guess that both are conducive to making pretty efficient compression and expansion.

    The article you link to links to another where they discuss the efficiency -

    Eventually, the company will aim for an efficiency of about 60 to 70 percent.
    I mean, it's not in the Li ion battery efficiency range, but still pretty darned good.

    Not to mention that you don't have to build any kind of fancy pressure vessel. They're looking at putting these down at 80m, where the pressure will be about 8 atm - or about 1/10 the pressure inside of a commercial air cylinder. Hell, you could build them out of rubberized canvas & just replace them every few months.

    Cool. This is so simple and so elegant.

    Screw John Galt. Who's John Doe?

    by Mike Kahlow on Tue Jul 15, 2014 at 09:44:22 PM PDT

  •  This gives a whole new meaning to the term (9+ / 0-)

    windbags!

    Sorry..I couldn't resist that..it was such a gas! I had to release the pressure.

    A fo ben, bid bont. - Welsh proverb. ( translation: If you want to be a leader, be a bridge.)

    by Gwennedd on Tue Jul 15, 2014 at 10:00:11 PM PDT

    •  Pretty good Gwengnedd you get the HoundDog (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Gwennedd

      Golden Pun Star for today.

      I thought you were just blowing hot air for moment, but your comment kept blowing up with funny stuff.

      Sorry to think for a moment you were just popping off.

      Humor Alert! No statement from this UID is intended to be true, including this one. Intended for recreational purposes only. Unauthorized interpretations may lead to unexpected results. This waiver void where prohibited. Artistic License - 420420

      by HoundDog on Wed Jul 16, 2014 at 12:01:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Fascinating technology (18+ / 0-)

    The basic concept in stored wind energy is that if you don't store it, you lose it. So whatever energy you can keep costs essentially nothing extra at the generator, except for wear on rotating parts. Now we need a system with low enough costs and high enough efficiency so that we can get the energy in and back out again at substantially less than we can sell it for.

    So far so good. Now the problem is that dozens of storage technologies exist, and we have almost no data on which would be practical at full scale and also competitive. They need at least to be better than pumping water uphill into lakes, and better than batteries. Many techniques that seemed promising in prototypes have not worked out.

    Here we use the available surplus power in the pumps to compress the air and run it down the pipes to the storage bubbles, losing some amount to heat, to friction in the pumps, and so on. Then we let the air flow up the pipes into a turbine, with more losses that have not been entirely quantified yet.

    This is said to be an early commercial-scale deployment. That is not exactly correct. CAES says that it will use a few of its existing five-meter balloons at the bottom of Lake Ontario, but it calculates that full-scale commercial deployment would require tens of thousands of bags of that size, or the creation of much bigger bags. It is not only the bags and the systems to keep them anchored in place, but the plumbing to connect them and the computer-controlled valves and switching equipment to control filling them and releasing air to turbines. All of this has to be proof against storms and other hazards.

    There are many other engineering and design issues for such large installations on a lake or ocean bottom. Lake Ontario is 283 feet deep, on average, which means that special equipment would have to be constructed in quantity for installation, maintenance, and repair. Some of the technologies for drilling oil wells or installing wind turbines in deep water could no doubt be repurposed, but that would not be enough.

    When I was a market analyst, I always warned people about gee-whiz technology that everybody oohs and ahs about, but nobody will fund production for, or worse, get produced, but then nobody buys them. I have worked in a market where 20 to 30 technologies were vying to establish themselves, and developers could only expect two or three to succeed, if that.

    Mark Twain, for example, lost two fortunes investing in the wrong typewriter and typesetter companies. Venture capitalists have since worked out how much of a diversified portfolio they need so that the few big successes outweigh the inevitable total failures.

    Renewable power storage is a real thing, and will become practical at scale someday. But nobody knows which technologies will do it.

    PS That's Gizmodo, not Gizmoto.

    Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

    by Mokurai on Tue Jul 15, 2014 at 10:09:29 PM PDT

    •  Pumping water uphill... (4+ / 0-)

      This isn't essentially different than pumping water uphill.

      •  Significantly less efficient, nt (0+ / 0-)

        Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

        by benamery21 on Wed Jul 16, 2014 at 12:44:47 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  There are no hills... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ER Doc, Gwennedd

        ...in the type places where offshore wind arrays live.

        •  Strictly speaking... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          patbahn

              There is no requirement that the production and the storage be physically co-located, if the wind energy is converted to electricity. The electricity can be transported with minor losses to either a hilly location for the water pumping, or to an appropriate location for the air bubble storage. The same set of power lines could conceivably be used both ways. The same sort of storage could be used for solar power as well.
               I'd heard of using pumped water for storage of wind power before, but never the air bubble technology. Interesting system! Lithium or sodium batteries are probably more efficient, but on large scales, probably more expensive.
               The pumped water idea, for those unfamiliar with it, basically involves energy storage using two reservoirs at different levels connected by pipes and turbines. Under one concept, the same machinery could act in "storage mode" as motors to turn the turbines, pumping the water uphill, and in "production mode," as generators turned by the turbines as the water goes back downhill.
               Alternative designs use separate machinery on each side to allow for more efficient pumping than could be achieved with current designs of turbines.

          -7.25, -6.26

          We are men of action; lies do not become us.

          by ER Doc on Wed Jul 16, 2014 at 11:26:44 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Water displacement (0+ / 0-)

          It is pumping the water up.  The exact amount of energy stored is the increased potential energy of the water. The pressure is created by gravity.  So yes it is "uphill".

      •  the capital gear may be (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ER Doc

        a little cheaper.

        you can use displacement pumps to load
        and unload.

        and they face a nicer working environment.

    •  People have been doing CAES at utility scale (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      paulex, PeterHug, kurt, FarWestGirl, ER Doc

      for 35 years.  It's low efficiency, high capital, high O&M storage as currently implemented.  Undersea with a variable volume storage vessel (which people have been talking abut for years) offers a way to increase the efficiency by maintaining constant pressure as energy is stored/withdrawn.  It also potentially increases the availability of potential storage locations.  Unfortunately, it's still much less efficient than pumped storage, and even higher capital and higher O&M than previously implemented CAES.  Further, storage is not a grid requirement until intermittent resources reach significantly higher penetration in the U.S. especially as progress occurs on distributed demand management.  This is an important pilot commercialization technology nonetheless.

      Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

      by benamery21 on Wed Jul 16, 2014 at 12:57:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  This would be a valuable diary. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FarWestGirl, ER Doc, BMScott, Gwennedd



      Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

      by Wee Mama on Wed Jul 16, 2014 at 04:05:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thank Mokurai. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Gwennedd

      Humor Alert! No statement from this UID is intended to be true, including this one. Intended for recreational purposes only. Unauthorized interpretations may lead to unexpected results. This waiver void where prohibited. Artistic License - 420420

      by HoundDog on Wed Jul 16, 2014 at 12:04:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Any method of energy production (6+ / 0-)

    where we don't control the rate at which energy is produced, must include some method of energy storage.
    Electrical energy, once produced, must be used (or converted and stored).

    Whether the storage method is kinetic (flywheels), chemical or potential energy (pumping water to a higher elevation or inflating undersea balloons) is largely immaterial until we work out what is most efficient in a given scenario.

    I am more that happy to see that these problems are being seriously addressed - meeting our energy needs is absolutely an existential problem.

  •  Tipped & reced (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FarWestGirl, ER Doc

    I voted Tuesday, May 6, 2014 because it is my right, my responsibility and because my parents moved from Alabama to Ohio to vote. Unfortunately, the republicons want to turn Ohio into Alabama.

    by a2nite on Wed Jul 16, 2014 at 04:10:53 AM PDT

  •  Sailmakers are the experts at making soft balloons (6+ / 0-)

    Sailmakers know how to cut and stitch and glue sailcloth to make surfaces of fairly arbitrary shapes. There are some really big sails out there for the mega-yachts, in terms of fractions of an acre. Here's the point, although not the most efficient storage mechanism, massively large soft balloons anchored in deep water may be incredibly cheap compared to other storage mechanisms. They should last a long time as there is no pressure differential across the fabric, nor are there moving fluid forces.

    This would seem to be ideal for deep water offshore wind, which is a huge sustainable energy source.

    I know the exact sailmaker to prototype this.

  •  i had thought of this (0+ / 0-)

    using open end shell tanks

    it struck me as a good approach.

  •  Unintended consequences? (0+ / 0-)

    From a lifetime of training, I always like to think about unintended consequences. Well, I don't like to, but....

    Storing your energy where any ne'er-do-well can wreak havoc with little more than the equivalent of a hat pin...hmm. OK, maybe not a problem in peace-locked Lake Ontario, but in ocean waters?

    If we made much bigger balloons, say 41 meters in diameter, de Jong calculates you'd only need 23 of them.
    Imagine the mess you'd make, popping 23 of those babies more-or-less simultaneously.

    Beneath the beam that blocked the sky, none had stood so alone as I - and the Hangman strapped me, and no voice there, cried "Stay" for me in the empty square. (The Hangman, Maurice Ogden)

    by DocDawg on Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 06:24:41 AM PDT

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