As the world continues to search for better ways to create and store energy, one low tech method of storage is often overlooked. There are many ways to create energy and there are many ways to store it. Electrical energy is often stored in a chemical battery. But this involves the use of toxic and non-renewable resources. There are also ancient methods involving gravity solutions, and there is the prospect of storing energy through the production of hydrogen. All these ideas have their pros and cons, but the simplest of all is the storage of energy through compressed air.
Compressed Air in Industry: A lot of people are unaware that compressed air is already being used as stored energy all over the world. Some of the finest craftsman’s tools are air driven. If you go to an auto body shop or a tyre repair shop, they use equipment from Domnick Hunter RL. Most of these tools use air that was compressed by electric motors and then the energy was stored for later use. With good containment, the energy stored can be retained for many years without a loss. Think about the air in your tyres, those tyres remain inflated from electricity generated long ago. In a way, compressed air is more dependable than batteries, and it is completely non-polluting.
Other Uses of Compressed Air Energy: The energy of compressed air is not limited to air driven tools. To make this energy more useful it needs to be converted to electricity. To do this requires the reverse of the process of compression. Compressed air is used to power electrical generators. The major criticism of compressed air to electrical energy is that it is a bit inefficient. There is a loss of about 30% of the energy in the round-trip process, mostly due to heat dissipation. However, if one considers that compressed air can be generated from wind compressors, which eliminates a step, energy is then being created in a very clean and environmentally friendly manner.
Storing the Energy: There are many ways to store compressed air. You are likely familiar with compressed air tanks, as they are seen everywhere. But it is possible to store compressed air in the earth as well. Natural gas companies have been storing methane in natural underground cavities for many years already. This has been proven to be an efficient and inexpensive method of storage. It is also possible to store air deep underwater in containers. The high pressure of the ocean makes the containment easy and the air comes to the surface under its own power. Whatever method is used the air can be converted at the site to electricity and sent to the grid as needed.
The use of compressed air should not be overlooked because of its simplicity. This is such a clean and low-tech solution that it really should be a major consideration. Most electricity is created through some form of hot gas generation. Compressed air is the same principle, except that it is non-polluting and entirely renewable. The supply of air is also unlimited and so far, free to everyone.