Could Liquid Air Create Jobs and Energy?

Work has begun on a £300m energy plant in Greater Manchester. This plant will store surplus electricity from British wind and solar farms in the form of liquid air.

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According to its developer, this innovative facility should create over 700 jobs in North West England. Could liquid air breathe new life into the UK’s energy sector and inflate the economy of the local area?

Revolutionary Energy Storage

The plant, owned by Highview Power, will be the UK’s first liquid air facility of this scale. Scheduled to be operational by 2026, it will have the capacity to power over 480,000 British homes by storing energy for weeks beyond conventional battery storage systems.

The storage method involves compressing air before liquefying and cryogenically freezing it. This process enables the facility to release the stored energy back into the grid during periods of high demand.

Highview Power co-founder Richard Butland described the plans as ‘huge for Britain and huge globally’. He emphasised the cost-effectiveness of the technology when implemented at a large scale.

Investment and Infrastructure

Government funding and investment from several prominent firms, including energy giant Centrica, have supported the development of liquid air technology in the UK. Their combined investment of £300m has propelled the project forward.

Butland also pointed out the strategic timing of this energy storage revolution, explaining that the UK grid often wastes excess energy while demand is low. As the largest of its kind worldwide, the Carrington facility will efficiently store this surplus energy for later use.

Perfect Location

Specialists chose Carrington, in the Trafford borough of Greater Manchester, as the ideal location for the facility due to its proximity to wind farms in the Irish Sea and Scotland, which should facilitate efficient wind-generated electricity transfer and storage.

The area, which is also home to Manchester United and Sale Sharks' training complexes, creates jobs in construction, supply chain, and operational staff. Highview Power also aims to open a delivery hub in Manchester and expand its technology across the UK.

Impact on the UK Energy Market

Introducing large-scale electricity storage could significantly impact the UK’s energy market. By providing a reliable means of storing excess energy, the facility will enhance the integration of wind and solar power into the national grid. This implementation could lead to a more balanced and resilient energy supply, reducing the country’s dependency on fossil fuels.

The stability offered by this innovative solution could also mitigate the volatility of energy prices. During high output and low demand periods, liquid air would allow energy companies to store and release energy, maintaining balance in the energy market and potentially reducing wholesale energy prices.

Impact on Bill Payers

For UK households, the new energy storage plant promises several potential benefits. Firstly, the plant should contribute to more stable and predictable energy prices by smoothing out energy supply and demand peaks and troughs. Something bill payers would be pleased to see after years of volatility.

In the long term, this stability could translate into lower energy bills for consumers as the cost of integrating renewables into the country’s energy mix decreases.

Creating hundreds of jobs and associated activity in the Greater Manchester area could have positive knock-on effects for the local economy. Increased regional employment and investment would drive economic growth and improve living standards.

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