The POWER Interview: Cryogenic Energy Storage Technology

Highview Power recently unveiled its modular, giga-scale cryogenic energy storage technology, the CRYOBattery™. The company has announced a partnership with Tenaska to help develop four giga-scale plants in the U.S., with the first expected in in Texas. The company also is working on a fifth project in the Midwest.

The technology uses ambient air to store energy. Highview Power’s CEO, Javier Cavada, recently told POWER that the technology “can enable renewable energy baseload power … making 24/7 renewable energy a reality today.” Highview in a news release said the company’s “proprietary cryogenic storage technology … is currently the only long-duration energy storage solution that is locatable and offers multiple gigawatt-hours of storage, representing weeks’ worth of storage, rather than hours or days.”

Highview Power recently won the 2019 Ashden Award for Energy Innovation with the CRYOBattery. Ashden is a London, UK-based charity that works in the field of sustainable energy and development. Highview earlier this year announced a joint venture with TSK, a global engineering, procurement, and construction company, to co-develop CRYOBattery projects in Spain, the Middle East, and South Africa. The company also has partnered with Finland-based Citec to modularize the CRYOBattery system, helped by simplified design and streamlined engineering from Citec.

Javier Cavada of Highview Power. Courtesy: Highview Power

Highview said the modular cryogenic energy storage system is scalable up to multiple gigawatts of energy storage and can be located anywhere. It said the technology “reaches a new benchmark for a levelized cost of storage (LCOS) of $140/MWh for a 10-hour, 200 MW/2 GWh system.” The company has said the system “is equivalent in performance to, and could potentially replace, a fossil fuel power station,” and enables “renewable energy baseload power at large scale, while also supporting electricity and distribution systems and providing energy security.”

The technology uses liquid air as the storage medium. It provides time shifting, synchronous voltage support, frequency regulation and reserves, synchronous inertia, and black start capabilities. The CRYOBattery has a small footprint, even at multiple gigawatt-levels, and does not use hazardous materials, according to the company.

Highview Power has developed and optimized its own proprietary BLU2 core controller system, which integrates the control of all CRYOBattery components to provide optimal facility performance, which Highview said enables “managing the balance between flexibility, efficiency, and response. The BLU controller enables a system to be configured to a particular application through the selection of individual operational modes. It also provides operation and performance monitoring feedback, ensuring a facility’s optimal efficiency. The system’s embedded flexibility further ensures that the controller has the built-in capacity to adapt as a facility’s demand varies with market development.”

Cavada has said of the storage technology: “This is a pivotal moment for the renewable energy industry and for anyone who wants to deploy large amounts of renewables. As more and more renewables are added to the grid, long-duration, giga-scale energy storage is the necessary foundation to make these intermittent sources of power reliable enough to become baseload. Not only does our CRYOBattery deliver this reliability and allow scalability—it is proven, cost-effective, and available today.”

Cavada provided more details about his company and its technology in a recent interview with POWER.

POWER: What was the idea behind your company?

Cavada: “We started Highview Power 14 years ago. We were looking to develop technology for space in storage market, and renewable energy systems. We wanted a locatable mobile device, and we were very successful in doing that with a pilot plant and a commercial plant. The technology was proven with a pilot plant in 2014, and in 2017 with a commercial plant in the UK, in Manchester.”

POWER: How does this technology fit into the global energy landscape?

Cavada: “We are bringing the technology up to scale globally. It makes sense, when you look at integration into wind and solar markets. We don’t compete with other sources.”

POWER: Can you talk more about the ‘liquid air’ process?

Cavada: “What we have created is a technology that is cryogenic, a liquefaction, like liquefying gas like LNG [liquefied natural gas]. What we liquefy is the air, when we cool it down. We are cleaning it. It’s a mix of pure air, mainly nitrogen and oxygen. The liquefied gas, the cryogenic fluid, it’s 700 times smaller than the gaseous volume. It goes into tanks, in liquid form. We are working with many companies, such as General Electric and Siemens, in a partnership to deliver this container.”

POWER: Why do larger projects make sense for Highview?

Cavada: “With cryogenic, we’re talking about very low temperatures. In a way, it’s complementing other technologies. And the larger the volume, the higher the efficiency and the lower the cost … so the larger the better. It can be 25 MW, 50 MW, 100 MW. We make the system to fit the project. The U.S. is definitely the largest market, and then there’s Europe. We link it to renewables, such as solar, in Chile and Latin America, where solar generation is very good. There are a lot of mining operations where our technology fits in very well.”

POWER: What brought about the partnership with Tenaska?

Cavada: “Tenaska has years in the industry and has done a lot of fossil fuel projects in the past, and today it sees the market need for renewables. Tenaska has always been very entrepreneurial, and has seen the opportunity to make an impact. They’re looking at a range of technologies to get the price of electricity as low as possible. They are looking at our technology because it’s easy to understand, easy to maintain, and has a 30-to-40-year lifecycle. And we help with emissions. They can use it for different applications, such as [time] shifting, to solve congestion problems—another service that the technology can provide. It can even be used with pumped hydro [systems], we can size it based on demand, for as many hours as possible.”

POWER: How quickly do you think this technology will make major inroads in the power generation space?

Cavada: “We really want to accelerate the process. We are expanding globally today.. We’re looking at standardization, to have a solution that fits most of the grid. The speed of implementation depends on larger-scale projects. For smaller scale [projects], there are other technologies that work well.”

Darrell Proctor is a POWER associate editor (@DarrellProctor1, @POWERmagazine).