Compressed air generated by a compressor which in most cases is operated by electricity from the grid can be very expensive, and in most cases facilities don’t prioritize the cost of operating compressed air systems – they just want the delivery of a consistent, reliable air supply. However, it is estimated that 10% of all the electricity generated in the world today is used to compress air. European industry uses 3% of its total electricity consumption to produce compressed air, with around 70% of the total cost of compressed air production related to electricity consumed. Given that a large quantity of the energy supplied is lost through leakage (typically 20-50%), heat and idling, research into increasing the efficiency of a compressed air system offers substantial potential savings to companies.
Electricity Generation Using Compressed Air
Irish Manufacturing Research have been funded under the Enterprise Ireland Innovation Partnership programme to carry out a feasibility study to understand if waste compressed air streams in manufacturing facilities across Ireland can be utilised to generate electricity.
Static Hydro Energy, the company who commissioned the study, have a novel way of producing electricity utilising compressed air. The original concept was to use the device at sea where the compressed air would be provided by its own internal compressor.
However, looking at other applications, manufacturing facilities were identified as a possibility given the amount of compressed air used on these sites. If a waste air stream from a process blowdown, for example, could be utilised that would remove the need for the compressor increasing the overall efficiency of the device.
The feasibility study will look to ascertain these key data sets and profiles that will inform the development of a full innovation partnership proposal.
“Static Hydro Energy (SHE) Ltd is an Irish company involved in the utilization of waste compressed air. Our completed prototype demonstrated how waste compressed air could be used to generate electricity in a novel and unique way. However, we did not possess any hard data pertaining to the availability of waste compressed air in Ireland. Following a recommendation from Enterprise Ireland, we approached Irish Manufacturing Research seeking their assistance. Using the well-established skill set, IMR have, in effect, acted as a “one stop shop” for us. From the onset, their total commitment was both a surprise and a pleasure to witness. IMR’s level of engagement and enthusiasm for our project instilled an increased confidence in our team.”