Disused South Australia zinc mine to pilot clean-energy storage for grids

01 Mar 2019

Toronto-based Hydrostor Inc., a leader in advanced compressed-air energy storage (A-CAES), has announced a A$30 million technology demonstration project at the former Angas Zinc mine in Strathalbyn, Adelaide.

The pilot project will create Australia’s first energy-storage project that uses compressed air.

According to the CEO of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), Darren Miller, the project could open a new form of renewable energy storage in Australia — and help deliver secure and reliable energy supplies in the future.

'Hydrostor’s innovative way to store energy with air could add to Australia’s grid-scale storage capability, complementing pumped hydro and batteries,' says Miller.

The project will use the existing mine to develop a below-ground air storage cavern. When operational, compressed air will be stored in the cavern with pressure maintained by filling the original mine shaft with a water column.

During the charging phase, air is pumped into the cavern, displacing water into a surface reservoir. During discharge, water is sluiced back into the mine shaft and cavern, and some of the compressed air is ducted to the surface where it drives power turbines.

To increase efficiency, heat is collected from the compressed air during the charging phase, and then used to re-heat the compressed air during discharge.

Its promoters claim that A-CAES has similar properties to pumped hydro. Importantly – for the viability of renewable energy – it can provide the dispatchability needed to ensure the reliability of power grids as more solar and wind power is installed.

'A-CAES has the added benefit of being flexible with location and topography,' says Miller. 'It is always exciting to see old brownfield sites given a new life and utilised for our transition to a cleaner and renewable future.'

The project has received a A$6 million grant from ARENA, and a further A$3 million grant from the Government of South Australia Renewable Technology Fund.

Hydrostor CEO, Curtis VanWalleghem, says his company is delighted to be contributing to the range of technologies that are helping Australia transition to a lower-cost, high system-strength electricity grid that includes a high proportion of renewables generation.

'We’re excited to have the opportunity to demonstrate the significant benefits of our flexibly-sited, low-cost, bulk energy-storage solution,' he says.