A CAES plant uses standard gas turbine compressor and turbine technology but because the two units operate independently, they can be sized differently in order to match the requirements of the plant. The larger the compressor compared to the turbine, the lesser the time it requires to charge the cavern with a given amount of energy. Thus a plant built in Germany required 4h of compression to provide an hour of power generation whereas a plant in Alabama needs only 1.7 h of compression for an hour of generation.
As a result of compression and generation being separated, a CAES plant turbine can operate well at part load as well as full load. More complex operation is also possible. The Alabama plant, for example, uses two turbine stages with the exhaust from the last turbine used to heat air from the cavern before it enters the first turbine.3 Fuel is not actually burnt in the compressed air until it enters a combustion chamber between the first and second turbine stages.
A key feature of a CAES plant is that it generates more electricity than was actually consumed when the air was stored. This is a result of the fuel burnt in the compressed air during the generation part of the cycle. A typical plant will deliver 30-35% more electricity to the grid that was originally consumed during storage.
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