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Solar, tidal and in particular wind energy are inherently intermittent with continual fluctuations in electricity production. Because the availability of wind is time dependent whereas the need of electric power is continuous, there is a requirement for an intermediate storage of wind power.
Compressed air energy storage (CAES) and large scale underground storage of hydrogen offer the potential for overcoming the challenges associated with the variability of wind by both smoothing the output from wind and enabling the cost-effective operation of high capacity, high-voltage transmission lines carrying this power at high capacity factors.
Storage volumes required to make CAES and H2 storage plants economic are large, hence above ground facilities are not practicable due to prohibitive costs and environmental issues. For this reason, the compressed air and the H2 may be stored under pressure in airtight underground storage caverns, typically solution mined salt caverns.
CAES and H2 storage in underground salt caverns is considered to be an optimum solution to address the expected balancing problems in electricity grids resulting from the planned increase in wind power in the UK. The UK possesses important salt deposits in the form of individual salt beds and salt-dominated sequences that may be hundreds of metres thick providing huge reserves of salt in a number of areas and of differing geologic ages which may be considered for the development of energy storage caverns.
The technological concept of using salt caverns as storage facilities is more than 60 years old and the relevant technology has been commercially available since the early 1960s. The design of energy storage salt caverns is based on the existing experience in the design and operation of salt caverns for the storage of natural gas.
During the presentation, the differences between gas storage and energy storage salt caverns, which require consideration during their design and the relevant issues will be addressed. In addition, the limitations of the use of salt caverns for energy storage operations will be assessed and the geomechanical parameters that require specific investigations will be identified.
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Evan is a Technical Director in Atkins' Ground Engineering division in Edinburgh, in charge of the geomechanical work of underground gas storage schemes. A Chartered Engineer, Evan has more than 40 years of international and UK experience in engineering consultancy in the field of underground gas storage and geomechanics in general.
Before joining Atkins, he was ICI's Senior Consultant for their underground storage operations in salt caverns and for 16 years, till October 1996, he was the Director of the Newcastle University Rock Mechanics Laboratories (at the time, the UK's centre of excellence in Salt Mechanics).
Evan is currently the Caverns Technical Authority for Scottish and Southern Energy Gas Storage plc concerning the Aldbrough and Atwick gas storage operations regarding a cluster of caverns with a total capacity of 4.4 million cubic meters located at a depth of 1.8 km. Moreover, he still maintains strong links with academic researchers, and since 2008 he has been a Visiting Professor in the School of Earth and Environment of the University of Leeds.