Common Design Challenges in Compressed Air Energy Storage Systems

Renewable energy is a topic which has gained significant traction in recent years. Unlike fossil fuels, which are finite and contribute to environmental degradation, renewable energy provides a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable path forward for meeting our energy needs. Energy storage systems refer to technologies that store energy for later use, allowing for a more flexible and reliable energy supply from renewable sources such as solar and wind.

There are a wide variety of energy storage systems that enhance the power generation capabilities of renewable power plants. The most familiar system may be hydropower, with over 95% of today’s energy grid storage being held by pumped hydropower. When electric demand is low, “turbines pump water to an elevated reservoir using excess electricity. When electricity demand is high, the reservoir opens to allow the retained water to flow through turbines and produce electricity” [5]. Thanks to its performance, pumped hydropower has dominated the energy grid storage market for years. However, other emerging technologies are gaining notoriety, including compressed air energy storage, which will be the topic of today’s blog.

Have you ever wondered what happens to the air when you blow up a balloon? Well, some clever people have figured out how to use that air to store electricity. It’s called compressed air energy storage (CAES), and it’s basically like having a giant balloon underground that you can fill up with air when you have extra electricity and let it out when you need more. Sounds simple, right? Well, not quite. Some challenges are involved, like keeping the air from getting too hot or cold, and making sure it doesn’t leak or explode. But if done right, CAES systems can help us use more renewable energy sources like wind and solar, and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

Fig – 1. Green Energy Conservation
Fig – 1. Green Energy Conservation [4]
Compressed air energy storage is a technology that stores excess electricity as compressed air in underground reservoirs or containers. When electricity is needed, the compressed air is heated and expanded to drive a turbine and generate power. CAES can help balance the supply and demand of electricity, especially from intermittent renewable sources like wind and solar. There are two main types of CAES: diabatic and adiabatic. Diabatic CAES dissipates some of the heat generated during compression to the atmosphere and uses natural gas or other fuels to reheat the air before expansion. Adiabatic CAES stores the heat of compression in a thermal storage system and uses it to reheat the air without additional fuel. Adiabatic CAES has higher efficiency and lower emissions than diabatic CAES but also higher costs and technical challenges.
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Drones Among Us!

– Look! Up in the sky! – It’s a Bird! – It’s a Plane! – No! It’s… Oh it’s drones again…

If you hear a bzzzz annoying you, do not rush to look for the unfortunate fly to finish it off. Perhaps it is also troubled by the sound that this flying aluminium box makes.

Drones come in many forms, some harmless and some dangerous. Let’s look at which is which and discuss some of their unique features.

Drones are flying robots, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that can fly thousands of kilometers, as well as small drones designed for confined spaces. Aerial vehicles that do not carry a human operator, fly either remotely or autonomously, and carry either lethal (non-friendly) or nonlethal (likely friendly) payloads are considered drones.

Figure 1 - An MQ-9 Reaper on a training mission in Nevada
Figure 1. An MQ-9 Reaper on a training mission in Nevada [3]
Depending on the flight missions of the drones, the size and type of installed equipment are different. Considerable advantages of drones have led to a myriad of studies focusing on the optimization and enhancement of the performances of these drones. According to the mentioned characteristics, drones benefit from the potential to carry out a variety of operations, including reconnaissance, patrolling, protection, transportation of loads, and aerology. Read More

Choosing the Best Environmental Control System When Designing an Aircraft

As human beings, we are very vulnerable to environmental conditions, especially those in the stratosphere. Unlike cockroaches (which seem oddly equipped for pretty much anything), humans cannot survive in extremely low or extremely high ambient pressures or temperatures. Perhaps the best minds of our generation didn’t immediately think “how can I be more like this indestructible insect”, but nevertheless technological advancements have helped us get one step closer to their tenacity…at least in stratospheric conditions. Technology does not stand still though and is constantly improving and with it, we’re given more choices and variety in environmental control systems.

Figure 1 – Environmental Control System in an aircraft [2]
When designing environmental control systems (ECS), it is very important to understand that the top priority of these systems is to provide safety and comfort under absolutely any conditions, whether flying over the Sahara Desert or Alaska. We are talking about a minimum of 75 kPa and 20-24 °C. Relative humidity should range from 15 to 60% [1].

The ECS is usually split in one air conditioning machine (ACM) pack per engine. The ACM size is dictated by the ventilation requirement of 6 (g/s)/pax minimum (e.g. 1.2 kg/s minimum for the 200 pax capacity of A320; some 2 kg/s is the typical design value). This air can be taken both from the engine and through separate air intakes (but that’s a completely different story). Read More