Air May Be The Answer

By: Jill Cordes
By: Jill Cordes

It inflates your tires. It may power your car's brakes. And it helps divers and firefighters breathe. It's compressed air. And now, it could be a clean new way to generate electricity.

Since the wind doesn't always blow, wind power is intermittent. "Compressed air energy storage" could help solve that problem. It offers a constant flow of air, even on a windless day.

It's pretty simple. Air is compressed and stored in underground caverns during off-peak hours. When electricity use is high, the air is released. It's mixed with natural gas and burned, and the air expands and helps turn large, jet-engine like turbines. And you've got power. According to the New York Times, the storage reservoirs are typically more than 1,500 feet below ground. If they take eight hours to fill at night, the compressed air could be released to run generators for eight hours during the day.

There are already several compressed air storage facilities in the US and Europe. And more are on the drawing board.


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