A PIONEERING project aiming to turn air into liquid for energy storage has opened in Bury.

The world’s first grid-scale liquid air energy storage (LAES) plant, based at the Pilsworth landfill gas site, will act as a giant rechargeable battery, soaking up excess energy and releasing it when needed.

The demonstration scheme is owned by Highview Power in partnership with recycling and renewable energy company, Viridor, and has been backed with more than £8 million in government funding.

It is hoped that it will help electricity grids cope with the increased uptake in renewable energy.

LAES works by using electricity to cool air to -196°C, transforming it into a liquid that can be stored in insulated tanks.

The liquid is then converted back to a gas involving a expansion process that releases stored energy, which turns a turbine to generate electricity.

In addition to providing energy storage, the new plant will also convert waste heat to power using heat from the on-site landfill gas engines.

The plant was officially switched on by Professor John Loughhead, chief scientific adviser at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), today.

Gareth Brett, CEO at Highview Power, said the plant was 'the only large scale, true long-duration, locatable energy storage technology available today'.

He added that demand response aggregator KiWi Power will be able to draw energy from the plant to power about 5,000 average-sized homes for around three hours, in a process that produces no emissions.

Highview Power say such plants could 'easily store enough clean electricity generated by a local windfarm to power a town like Bury (around 100,000 homes) for many days'.

They are already in negotiations to build bigger plants, which they hope will provide the UK with a stable and secure source of homegrown energy and pave the way for wider use of the technology.