This blog is about how EDM can help the penetration of renewable energy sources into the electricity grid in Ireland. Another facilitator of renewable energy penetration is energy storage. For example, currently, there is significant interest in pumped hydro storage in Ireland. I have added the URL of the Electricity Storage Association http://electricitystorage.org/ to the blogroll of this site. This URL lists the many options for electricity storage and draws comparisons between them.
It would seem from the analysis that compressed air energy storage (CAES) is an option that might also deserve investigation in the Irish context. This technology uses underground mines or natural caverns to store large volumes of compressed air. During times of surplus electrical energy, air is pumped into the cavern. When electricity is required, the compressed air is used to improve the efficiency of a gas fired turbine.
Off the south coast of Cork in Ireland is the Kinsale gas field which is operated by Marathon. For full details read the following PDF.
The Kinsale field is now nearly spent and is being used as a natural gas storage facility. The Seven Heads gas field which extends further into the Atlantic uses the pipline and infrastructure of the Kinsale field to land the gas on shore. I began to wonder could the Kinsale gas field infrastructure be used to implement a CAES system. I decided to send the following email to Marathon’s press officers.
Dear Linda, Robert,
I would appreciate it if you could supply an answer to a technical question, please.
Question Background: Ireland has a major problem with wind energy penetration due to the variable supply nature of wind generated electricity. Energy demand management (EDM) or energy storage, preferably both, are required to solve the problem. As I understand it, Ireland has 2GW of planning permissions for wind turbines for which grid connections are not possible for reasons of grid instability. I am interested in EDM and energy storage. While researching the technologies behind energy storage I grew a particular interest in the viability of compressed air energy storage (CAES). This form of energy storage is used in conjunction with natural gas to increase turbine efficiency. What is required is a large sealed natural cavern that can be used to store compressed air.
Question: I understand that the Marathon south west gas field, in Ireland, is now being used for gas storage. Could it be used for compressed air storage to help solve Ireland’s wind energy penetration problem?
I would appreciate your feedback on this issue. Please let me know if I can reprint your reply on my blog www.synergymodule.com.
I look forward to publishing their reply.
19th August 2007
I havn’t heard back from Marathon. I’ll try more local contacts and I will publish whatever reply I get. I think that natural gas wells may not be suitable for CAES because mixing air and natural gas makes an explosive mixture.
In the meantime I found the following two references to the two oldest CAES projects in existance.