An ambitious 268MW compressed air energy storage (CAES) project in Northern Ireland could be online by mid-2018, according to developer Gaelectric.
Wind energy developer Gaelectric wants to build the approximately £300m ($491m) CAES project on the outskirts of the Northern Ireland port of Larne. The project would require the development of three 230,000 m3 salt caverns to store compressed air and provide up to six hours of energy for peak-time use.
Electricity from the nearby Ballylumford gas-fired power station fed via a new 5km cable would be used to power an electrical motor, which would drive a 300 bar compressor that stores air in the salt cavern. When electricity demand increases, this air would be released and used to run a turbine to generate electricity.
To improve the power output of the turbine, some natural gas is used in the combustion cycle. This will require the construction of a 1.8km pipeline.
Gaelectric’s programme manager Conall Haughey said the final submission to Northern Ireland’s planning authorities was imminent. “We would hope to receive planning consent in July 2015, and have the three caverns operational by June/July 2018,” he told BEST.
Once planning and grid connection are consented, Gaelectric hopes to attract sufficient funding to build the facility, which Haughey puts at “around £1m per megawatt.”
The financial viability of the Larne project largely depends on System Operator for Northern Ireland (SONI) awarding Gaelectric an adequate revenue stream from its DS3 grid balancing programme, designed to better integrate the island of Ireland’s high penetration of wind power.