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Compressed Air Energy Storage

Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) uses off peak electricity to compress air into either an underground structure (e.g., a cavern, aquifer, or abandoned mine) or an above ground system of tanks or pipes. The compressed air is then mixed with a fuel (e.g. natural gas), burned, and expanded through a conventional or gas-fired turbine which runs a generator. A recuperator can be used to preheat the gas before burning to get higher efficiencies.

At utility scale, energy generated during periods of low energy demand (off-peak) can be released to meet higher demand (peak load) periods. A similar concept uses wind powered air compressors.

The first commercial CAES was a 290-MW unit built in Hundorf, Germany in 1978. The second commercial CAES was a 110-MW unit built in McIntosh, Alabama in 1991. Several more CAES plants are in various stages of the planning and permitting process.


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