Scientists have suggested that the rocks present in North Sea – on the seabed off the UK coast – could be offering a place for renewable energy production in near future.
According to scientists at the Universities of Edinburgh and Strathclyde there is a possibility that through an advanced technique we could trap compressed air in porous rock formations found in the North Sea using electricity from renewable technologies. This trap compressed air could be released later to drive a turbine to generate large amounts of electricity. The study claims that this particular technique could help meet the UK’s electricity needs during winter.
Scientists used mathematical models to assess the potential of the process, called compressed air energy storage (CAES). They predicted – based on their findings – that porous rocks beneath UK waters could store about one and a half times the UK’s typical electricity demand for January and February.
Compressed air energy storage would work by using electricity from renewables to power a motor that generates compressed air. This air would be stored at high pressure in the pores found in sandstone, using a deep well drilled into the rock. During times of energy shortage, the pressurised air would be released from the well, powering a turbine to generate electricity that is fed into the grid. A similar process storing air in deep salt caverns has been used at sites in Germany and the US.
Locating wells close to sources of renewable energy – such as offshore wind turbines – would make the process more efficient, cheaper and reduce the amount of undersea cables required, the team says.
The study is published in the journal Nature Energy.