Kibbutz Yahel, near Eilat, is soon to be the first of its kind to store renewable energy via underground water and air compression tanks.
This week, after a successful running period that lasted about six months at the test facility at the Kibbutz, renewable energy company Augwind announced that all the required tests have been completed, and their AirBattery system is operational and ready to use with an 81% efficiency level.
Augwind is an Israeli technology company founded in 2012 with the mission to create an alternative solution to energy storage. They have developed a unique renewable energy storage system, by utilizing compressed air, water pumps and turbines, all installed underground in a modular network of tanks.
Yossi Amiel, Business Manager of Kibbutz Yahel, explained that the AirBattery system’s utilization of underground space perfectly matched Kibbutz Yahel’s area-specific storage requirements.
“We were looking for a solution that would allow us to store electricity when needed. The problem was that the space allocated to the storage facility covered an area where there is no possibility to install lithium-ion batteries.”
Besides the system’s discreet profile, Amiel also noted, “One of the by-products of Augwind’s system is cold air that comes out at a temperature of 15 degrees, which I can channel to cool the barn and plant, thereby increasing milk yield and maintaining the quality of date strands on their way to processing.”
Augwind’s founder, Dr. Or Yogev, developed the AirBattery system as a way of solving one of the renewable energy field’s largest paradoxes: renewable energy is very commonly stored in rare-metal lithium-ion batteries, which have a heavy negative impact on the environment.
Yogev’s goal is to move away from these wasteful resources and toward something cleaner.
“Air is the raw material with which electricity is stored,” he said. “It is like a spring that is charged and released, and as soon as the electricity is released for use, the air returns to the atmosphere without polluting it. This is a completely green procedure.”
In a press release, Augwind described the hydroelectric dam as the “ultimate solution” for generating electricity from green energy – an array of water reservoirs, dams and pumps in large structures that support the existing electricity infrastructure. This technology requires the production of a dam that will raise the water to a height of hundreds of meters in order to be able to generate electricity from them in the most efficient and green way.
However, despite all of its advantages, this “ultimate solution” is very difficult to implement in Israel due to a wide range of economic and environmental constraints.
Augwind’s system effectively minimizes the hydroelectric dam’s profile, while utilizing the same core material.
“It’s actually a closed-circuit pump, where instead of huge water reservoirs and large height differences, we use air pressure in a way that can be applied underground, safely in almost any environment,” said Yogev.
The innovation has not gone unnoticed by the Israeli government. The Energy Ministry has been seeking solutions to improve the nation’s renewable energy profile.
“We are pushing forward renewable energy as quickly as we can,” said Gideon Friedmann, acting chief scientist at the ministry. “Our new target for renewable energy is 30% by 2030, and 20% by 2025.”
The Energy Ministry has been moving toward renewable energy for the last 10 years, but Friedmann explained that two main factors have accelerated their efforts.
“One is the reduction in the cost of renewable energy; the second is the understanding around the world that we’re experiencing a climate crisis, and we need to accelerate our step to reach lower emissions.
“We know that to reach high penetration of renewable energy in Israel we need to install significant amounts of storage,” said Friedmann, pointing out that solar energy needs to be available for use during the night and winter, when the sun’s rays are not readily available. Enter Augwind.
“They have a lot of ideas about how to do things in a better way,” said Friedmann. Their higher reuse cycle count coupled with the non-toxic nature of their system, makes Augwind a logical investment.
The Ministry of Energy has supported the company to the tune of NIS 1.5 million.