Distributed energy storage has been recognized as a valuable and often indispensable complement to small-scale power generation based on renewable energy sources. Small-scale energy storage positioned at the demand side would open the possibility for enhanced predictability of power output and easier integration of small-scale intermittent generators into functioning electricity markets, as well as offering inherent peak shaving abilities for mitigating contingencies and blackouts, for reducing transmission losses in local networks, profit optimization and generally allowing tighter utility control on renewable energy generation. Distributed energy storage at affordable costs and of low environmental footprint is a necessary prerequisite for the wider deployment of renewable energy and its deeper penetration into local networks.
Thermodynamic energy storage in the form of compressed air is an alternative to electrochemical energy storage in batteries and has been evaluated in various studies and tested commercially on a large scale.
Distributed compressed air energy storage (DCAES) systems in combination with renewable energy generators installed at residential homes, public or commercial buildings are a viable alternative to large-scale energy storage, moreover promising lower specific investment than batteries if a mass-market is established. Flexible control methods can be applied to DCAES units, resulting in a complex system running either independently for home power supply, or as a unified and centrally controlled utility-scale energy storage entity.
This study aims at conceptualizing the plausible distributed compressed-air energy storage units, examining the feasibility for their practical implementation and analyzing their behavior, as well as devising the possible control strategies for optimal utilization of grid-integrated renewable energy sources at small scales. Results show that overall energy storage efficiency of around 70% can be achieved with comparatively simple solutions, offering less technical challenges and lower specific costs than comparable electrical battery systems. Furthermore, smart load management for improving the dispatchability can bring additional benefits by profit optimization and decrease the payback time substantially.