In the depths of Lake Ontario, giant underwater balloons are set to store excess energy from Toronto’s energy grid.
Toronto-based Hydrostor launched what it claims is the world’s first underwater compressed air energy storage system last week.
During non-peak periods, excess electricity is passed through an air compressor. The compressed air is then sent through a pipeline from the facility on Toronto Island to the underwater balloons in Lake Ontario. When energy is needed, the process is reversed. The weight of the water pushes the compressed air back up the pipeline, where an expander converts it back to electricity that can be fed back into Toronto’s electrical grid.
The underwater balloon system produces zero emissions and conserves heat from the compression process to be reused. With a capacity of 660 kilowatts, the underwater balloons can store enough energy to power 330 homes.
Toronto Hydro is to operate the facility. In the future, Hydrostor hopes to sell its system to coastal cities and island nations making the switch to renewable energy.
Commercially viable energy storage technology is key to establishing mainstream renewable energy, due to the intermittency of power sources as wind and solar, as the sun does not always shine and wind does not always blow. And sometimes the wind blows harder than we need. But some storage options can only be used in particular locations, including pumped storage hydro, which involves pumping water from low to high elevations to be released when energy is needed. Underwater balloons meanwhile, are meant to be more easily scalable for projects of different sizes.
Ontario leads the country in energy storage initiatives. In July last year, the province announced 34 megawatts of energy storage projects with technologies from flywheels to thermal energy storage. In August 2014, Oshawa Power installed 30 rooftop solar panel and battery storage units. And other provinces are taking note. Alberta Innovates funded six energy storage projects in the province this year.
The Climate Examiner speaks to BC-based Carbon Engineering about the technology, the business and the policies that could make direct air capture, synfuels and carbon sequestration work.