Global exploitation

CAES has had a short history of limited development. The largest project yet built was a 290-MW power plant constructed at Huntorf in Germany in 1978. This plant operated for 10 years with 90% availability and 99% reliability, providing storage for a nuclear plant. Even so the German utility decommissioned the project. Interest in CAES then shifted to the USA where the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) began to promote the technology in the latter half of the 1980s.

EPRI saw CAES as a useful technology to enable small US utilities limit their need for expensive peaking power stations. It estimated that rock formations capable of providing reliable underground storage caverns exist across 75% of the USA.

As a result of EPRI's work, a 110-MW commercial project was built by the Alabama Electric Cooperative. The plant entered service in May 1991 and has operated ever since. It cycles once or twice each day, and can store 2600 MWh of energy.

At around the time the Alabama plant was built, Italy tested the technology in a 25-MW installation. No plant was built. More recently a 2700-MW plant has been proposed in the USA but not yet constructed.

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