Almost no aspect of energy use is untouched by the issue of energy storage. We're most accustomed to dealing with it in our daily lives: at what inconvenient moment is our cell phone or laptop battery going to fail us? But far more important from a clean energy perspective is grid scale storage. Wind and solar farms need cost effective storage to smooth out the inherent ups and downs of energy production from the weather. Utilities can put off building new power plants longer if low cost, convenient storage is available to allow them to manage supply and demand more effectively.
The diagram to the right (from the Electric Power Research Institute; click to enlarge) illustrates an important gap in storage solutions: the ability to store energy to be delivered over a period of hours to days at hundreds of kilowatts to hundreds of megawatts, the kind of energy supply that can keep substantial communities powered over time when the generated supply isn't adequate.
Novel Approach to Compressed Air Energy Storage
Hydrostor, a Canadian startup, will be pitching their solution for that gap at the Canada Pavilion at the TechConnect World Expo Boston on June 15. Hydrostor has an intriguing twist on Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) and I really like the way they think: they've taken the very practical approach of applying existing technology in a novel way. The air is stored in very large surplus military bags under water. These bags have been used in marine environments for decades without significant environmental impact and they're inexpensive.
But wait, you may be thinking, how many people live close enough to water deep enough to use these bags for it to be worthwhile? I asked the same question when I was coaching CEO Curt VanWalleghem and was surprised to learn that close to 50% of the world's population actually lives in a geography that is well-suited to Hydrostor's technology. In fact, they're building their pilot project with Toronto Hydro. They've further tuned their business model to target off-grid, remote populations such as island nations.
If you'd like to learn more, I encourage you to attend their pitch by registering for TechConnect World Expo and attending the Consulate General of Canada Boston's all day Canada Innovates clean energy conference, including pitches by 14 Canadian companies with a broad range of technologies.
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