A new method of storing renewable energy is set to be trialled in South Australia, with funding announced for Australia’s first compressed air energy storage project.

Canadian startup Hydrostor will build the 5 MW / 10 MWh compressed air storage facility at the old Angas Zinc Mine near Strathalbyn, about 60 kilometres south-east of Adelaide.

The company says that their compressed air system can provide the lowest cost bulk energy storage, undercutting more established methods available today.

Hydrostor has developed a system where a cavern excavated deep underground is used to store the compressed air, with pressure supplied by a vertical water column.

During charging, compressed air is pumped into the underground chamber, displacing water from the cavern up to a reservoir at the surface.

Heat created during the compression process is collected and stored, then used to reheat the air when the system is discharged to drive the turbine and create electricity.

With capacity limited only by the size of the underground cavern, the Advanced Compressed Air Energy Storage (A-CAES) technology is able to provide long duration storage, lasting for hours or even days.

ARENA is providing $6 million in funding towards the $30 million demonstration project and the South Australian Government is putting in $3 million.

Now that solar and wind is demonstrably the cheapest form of new generation and the transition to renewables is accelerating, the question of what happens when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine is becoming more pressing.

The solution is storage, and ARENA is supporting some of the biggest projects in the country.

From the grid-scale batteries being built in South Australia and Victoria, to Tasmania’s plan to develop new hydro and wind generation and become the ‘battery of the nation’, these projects are unlocking the technology needed to make our renewable energy supplies reliable and affordable.

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