Cryogenic energy storage is engineering’s latest response to a long unanswered question of the problem of energy storing in nuclear power plants

While energy generation has never been an issue, the problem of energy storage has remained: how can nuclear power plants (and other types of energy generation processes, for that matter) store surplus energy in order to use it when it’s necessary? 

The development of an adequate cryogenic energy storage system based on liquid air is opening the door for this option, making energy generation in nuclear power plants more sustainable and efficient.

At the same time, this evolution is facilitating other energy storage options, including the storage of other renewable, eco-friendly energies such as wind and solar power. Because these sources are typically inconsistent, the development of a storage system based on cryogenic power represents a great breakthrough-

What is the exact role of cryogenic energy storage in nuclear power plants and how can companies embrace this new development and make the most of efficiency in energy production? From Cryospain’s experience in cryogenic engineering, let us guide you through the possibilities of a cryogenic energy storage system in this short guide.

The relationship between cryogenics and nuclear energy

The nuclear power plants industry has long grappled with the question of how to store unused energy. Lately, cryogenic energy has provided a long-awaited answer that is allowing nuclear operators to regulate peak loads

The functioning of a cryogenic energy storage requires the following processes

  • Nuclear electric power generation produces redundant electric energy
  • Air liquefaction converts excess energy into cryogenic energy 
  • Cryogenic substances are then stored in liquid air form
  • When liquid air energy is needed, it’s subjected to pressurizing processes that convert this element back into electric energy. The liquid is regasified. Meanwhile, cold is still stored in a cold accumulation unit so that it can be used again in air liquifying processes 

Such a system facilitates nuclear power plants’ abilities to make the most of unused energy and shift to a more efficient “on-demand” model. 

The role of liquid air in cryogenic energy storage for nuclear plants

Liquid air is air that has been subjected to cold to the point of liquefaction. Cryogenic energy storage uses this element because it’s ideal for absorbing heat in a quick manner, so that it can easily turn to gas again and be used to produce electricity.

The role of liquid air is growing in importance for the following reasons:

  • Easy to store and transport, unlike other electrical energy systems
  • A clean and renewable source of energy
  • Presents efficiencies of up to 70% compared to other systems if ambient, outside sources of heat are used, according to the creators of a pioneer cryogenic energy storage system. Other studies suggest the right cryogenic energy storage could achieve 59.96% round trip efficiency.
  • A cost-efficient solution too, as it could mean costs of around 1000 dollars per kW and doesn’t require expensive materials
  • Facilitates flexibility in terms of energy production, helping incorporate renewable energy possibilities. It thus presents potential to help balance offer and demand in the developing renewable source market.
  • There are no geographical restrictions to its implementation

How to store liquid air

The storage of liquid air requires cryogenic storage equipment that is able to maintain cryogenic temperatures, protecting this substance from heat losses and inefficiencies.

The right equipment will also be able to release it safely when necessary, not posing any potential issues to nuclear power plants and their steam cycles, among other processes.

Keep reading: Cryogenic liquids: what they are, how they are obtained and what they are used for

Cryospain, the perfect partner for cryogenic energy storage

At Cryospain we are committed to help companies achieve excellence in their cryogenic installations while developing state-of-the-art solutions that embrace new cryogenic developments to provide efficient, sustainable energies.

Our involvement in cryogenic energy storage is extensive, as we’ve participated in projects of global relevance such as the ones undertaken by ITER, MITIC and INVAP.

Our role has been to design and manufacture vacuum-insulated cryogenic piping according to each of our clients’ needs. This means we developed both rigid and flexible projects presenting several sizes and lengths, while also being involved in projects of multi-linear vacuum-insulated conductors that help transferring several other tubes.

All in all, we’ve put our two-decade experience in cryogenic engineering at the service of our clients, helping them develop efficient systems for cryogenic energy storage and thus pushing the potential of nuclear power plants a step further.

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