An innovative new system being piloted by a startup in Canada could significantly cut the cost of compressed air energy storage by using simple, off-the-shelf technologies. Greentech Media reports that Toronto-based startup Hydrostor currently has a two-year pilot project underway that involves a set of pipes running about two miles out into Lake Ontario that pumps air into underwater balloons, where it’s stored before later being released and expanded to produce energy. The project aims to help the city’s hydro utility extend the life of its distribution equipment by providing electricity for peak periods – and reduce the utility’s reliance on fossil fuel energy sources.

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How, exactly does it work? Compressed air, pressurized to match the lake bottom’s water pressure is pumped into the heavy-duty underwater balloons through the pipes, where it’s stored until electricity is needed. At that time, the system reverses itself and the water’s weight pushes the air back through the pipes, where it’s converted back into electricity.

Related: Peugeot announces plans to release a hybrid car that runs on compressed air by 2016

The current Toronto pilot project is just 1 megawatt, but Hydrostor plans to offer up to 100 MW options. The cost of the energy from a 10 MW system like this would be about $250 per kilowatt hour, which is significantly cheaper than current, on-land compressed air storage.

The reason the company can produce the systems so cheaply lies in their use of simple, off-the-shelf technologies that defer the need for a complex manufacturing process. Add to that its drilling techniques that reduce the demand for boats and cranes, and you’ve got a cost-effective system. According to Greentech Media, the systems will come with a 10-year warranty that could be expanded to 20 years after the pilot is completed.

Via Greentech Media


Video and image via Hydrostor