Storage is the missing link that will enable renewables to become a reliable supply of mainstream energy. It is no wonder then that, as renewables expand in their reach, new and innovative forms of storing that energy also become more relevant. Because of this dynamic, the market for traditional underground compressed air energy storage (CAES) is expected to grow dramatically over the next decade.


“Compressed Air Energy Storage,” an August report by Boulder, Colo.-based market research firm, Navigant, describes the changes that are taking place in and around the technology that will cause demand for it to grow.


As Navigant notes, CAES has been commercially available for more than 30 years, but no new plants have been deployed since 1991. However, interest is growing, and higher efficiency, next-generation technology is also nearing commercialization.


The growing penetration of renewables and their intermittent nature are two factors driving CAES demand. Renewables need a reliable form of 
utility-scale storage to supplement their shortcomings. As a proven long-duration bulk storage technology, CAES meets that need.


Kerry-Ann Adamson, a research director for Navigant said “these macro conditions will drive demand for CAES, helping to rejuvenate a sector that has been largely dormant for the last two decades.”


Like renewables, CAES has its own limitations, as the compressed air is usually stored in underground caves or abandoned mines. Advances in the technology, most notably, isothermal (or adiabatic) technology, now allows plants to be sited wherever they are needed. This, too, will help drive growth.


Navigant projects that more than 11 gigawatts of CAES capacity will be installed worldwide from 2013 to 2023.