Going Green: First Coast Firm Develops Tech To Produce Renewable 'Liquid Air'

Jan 8, 2014

Could a First Coast-based energy firm have the answer to global climate change?

Keuka Energy in Palatka is developing technology that they believe will be the first to show a lower cost of energy than fossil fuel systems.

Keuka CEO Herbert Williams joined Melissa Ross to discuss the firm's advancements in the production and storage of "liquid air" in our weekly Going Green segment.

A "Rim Drive" wind turbine as produced by Keuka Energy.
Credit Keuka Energy

"Liquid air is no more complicated than what we breathe condensed down about 700 times," Williams explained. 

Liquid air is produced by cooling air to cryogenic temperatures. When the liquid, which can be stored and transported relatively easily, is heated it expands back to it's gaseous form, the pressure from which is used to drive electricity generating turbines.

While the the concept of using liquid air for stored capacity is not new, there are a few reasons why it hasn't been taken seriously as a form of renewable energy until very recently.

The main reason is that production costs have not been competitive with fossil fuels because the processes used to create liquid air employ fossil fuel-based technology, what Williams described as a "no winner."

For the last five years, Keuka has been developing wind turbine technology to make the production of liquid air a carbon neutral process.

"We've taken the price out of liquid air as we know it today and we've taken it to a 100 percent renewable stage," Williams said.

The "Rim Drive" turbine technology takes the power from the outer rim of a wind turbine and not the central shaft.

The process is reportedly more efficient than central shaft turbines, and the company says that by using this technology to drive compressors instead of generators cost to produce liquid air could be cut by about 65 percent.

Additionally, using floating platforms supporting water bound turbines as storage tanks would remove the costs of land-based storage tanks and overland transportation.

"We're getting tremendous excitement," Williams said, when asked what the reaction has been to their research and development.

The next step, Williams said, is to get a larger company to review their research and buy into the technology.

You can follow Melissa Ross on Twitter @MelissainJax.