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How Salt Caverns Could Transform Clean Energy Storage

  • Publish Date: Posted almost 5 years ago
  • Author: Steve Walia

A new project in America is investigating the potential for storing clean energy in salt caverns. The Advanced Clean Energy Storage project in Utah is being progressed as part of a JV, with $1 billion of funding from partners that include Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems.

By 2025, the project will see up to 1,000 MW of solar and wind power being stored as compressed air or hydrogen in salt caves.

Already, the US has slashed its carbon emissions by a third in the past 15 years, and now it is looking at ways to store its clean energy, especially in parts of the western USA where the production of renewable power can exceed demand. This can lead to generation restrictions and negative pricing issues.

In order to support clean energy, the long-term excess energy must be stored to match later demand. This requires storage capacity on a large scale; in this case, the entire western USA.

The Utah-based project seeks to respond to this challenge, making use of a salt formation that is already managed by Magnum Development. It is a natural and rare geologic phenomenon and one of a kind in that part of America. Liquid fuels are already stored in five of the salt caverns. 

Initially, enough energy will be stored to meet the power needs of 150,000 homes every year. In time, four types of renewable power storage will be in use at scale, including compressed air, renewable hydrogen, large-scale flow batteries and solid oxide fuel cells.

The project has excellent support at the state level, with Utah's governors keen to set the standard for next-generation renewables and to boost its energy infrastructure and skilled workforce by further leveraging the value of the salt domes.