Underwater balloons could provide renewable energy storage

November 27, 2015 0 By Amanda Giasson

A Canadian startup has invented a pressurized underwater balloon system that can store renewable energy.

Hydrostor, a Toronto-based Canadian startup, has said that it has created a renewable energy storage solution that is a system of pressurized underwater balloons, which cannot only store energy generated by renewable sources until it is needed, but can also last two times as long as the current best batteries and at a far cheaper cost.

The energy storage system could lower the need for traditional energy sources as backup power sources.

Traditional energy sources, like gas and diesel, are often needed at peak energy times or to supplement renewable power sources, such as wind and solar when they do not generate energy, for instance, at night or when there is no wind. However, this new solution could make it so that the stored renewable power could reduce the requirement of conventional and less green energy sources when additional power is needed. The energy storage system has the potential to be highly efficient, flexible and take up only a small amount of land space.

Compressed air is central to Hydrostor’s renewable energy storage system.

The company’s first facility has been set up in Lake Ontario near the city of Toronto. It consists of a series of balloons that have been placed 55 meters (180 feet) below the surface of the lake. The system of balloons is connected to the power grid through a pipeline. The balloons in Lake Ontario are capable of storing enough energy to power 330 homes and this can easily be scaled up, according to the developers.

Accumulators is the technical term for the material that is used by the underwater balloons, which is the same material used to raise sunken ships from the seafloor. Compressed air is central to the system. Extra energy is transformed into compressed air through Hydrostor’s proprietary technology, while heat exchangers store heat that is generated by the process. When it is needed, the lake’s natural pressure is used to pump air back to land, which drives a turbine and produces electricity as it travels.

“The G20 is talking about getting off fossil fuel by 2050. To do that, our electricity system has to incorporate storage so we don’t need as much backup diesel and natural gas capacity – that’s what this can do,” said Hydrostor CEO Curtis VanWalleghem.

VanWalleghem also said that the company is focused on commercializing its renewable energy storage technology globally in order to bring its “green energy storage solution to countries around the world.”