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Construction, Operation, and Design Improvement of a Small-Scale Liquid Air Energy Storage System Prototype


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Islanded renewable power sources require energy storage to mitigate intermittency. Liquid air energy storage (LAES) systems provide a novel alternative to the usual battery bank or fossil-fueled backup generator. LAES systems combine and leverage three mature technologies: cryogenics, expansion turbines, and induction generation. Although LAES has a lower round trip efficiency, the capital and maintenance costs are much lower than battery storage. LAES system performance is comparable to both pumped hydro storage (PHS) systems and compressed air energy storage (CAES) systems, but with the advantage of harnessing low-entropy waste heat or cold from co-located processes. An LAES system footprint is also a fraction of the size of a CAES or PHS system with a similar storage capacity. This study employed experiments to support a model-based systems engineering approach. A LAES system prototype was built from mature off-the-shelf components and utilized surplus, renewable, micro grid power in an attempt to liquefy ambient air via the Joule-Thompson effect. Collected performance data was compared to specifications provided with a previously failed system to identify and correct shortfalls for this system. Two potential design improvements were examined, and a benefit analysis was presented to inform future construction and testing necessary to inform the modeling and simulation of a building-scale LAES system and support the production of a fully functional prototype.



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