My Clean Break column today is actually more of a feature looking at compressed-air energy storage (CAES) and how Ontario, geologically, would be an excellent location to give it a try. About 50,000 natural gas and oil wells have been drilled in southwestern Ontario over the past 150 years and most of them are depleted. Turns out that depleted gas fields are one of several types of underground reservoir that can be used to store compressed air. Salt caverns are another option, and we have plenty of those as well. In fact, 60 per cent of Canada’s natural gas storage is in the region. Compressing and storing air wouldn’t be that different technically.
Another benefit is that southwestern Ontario has strong wind resources, so building a 1,000 MW-plus CAES facility on its own or as part of a partnership with area wind developers could prove quite economical. The idea, of course, is that cheap wind power generated overnight when demand is down could be used to compress and store the air. The air could then be released to generate electricity during daytime peaks, making wind a dispatchable resource in Ontario and more of a realistic replacement for coal power as it gets phased out of the province. Surplus overnight nuclear power, when we have it (mostly during the summer), could also be stored this way.
Read the story for more details and an explanation of how compressed-air energy storage works, and how rising natural gas prices and an inevitable price on carbon makes this an attractive bulk-energy storage option worth considering and planning for today.