On September 8, 2023, during the Teachers’ Day Celebration themed “Diligently Cultivating Talent for the Nation’s Strength” in Tsinghua University, the “Modern Power Energy System Safety Control and High Efficiency Operation Team”, led by Professor Mei Shengwei of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Applied Electronics (EEA), was granted the honorable title of “Advanced Group of Tsinghua University”.
Since the beginning of the 21st century, the development of new energy sources, represented by wind and photovoltaic energies, has been blooming. The fluctuating nature of wind and solar power output has posed new challenges for the clean transformation of energy systems. Energy storage is one of the most effective means to address the challenge of integrating large-scale wind and solar energy. In this context, the “Modern Power Energy System Safety Control and High Efficiency Operation Team” of the Department of Electrical Engineering chose compressed air energy storage as a key research direction and embarked on a decade-long technological endeavor.
The team established a comprehensive method system for the design of core equipment for non-combustion compressed air energy storage. They overcame key technological bottlenecks, such as non-steady-state centrifugal compression, efficient storage and heat exchange, large-capacity stable gas storage, and turbo-expansion power generation. They developed four core pieces of equipment and invented operational and control methods for compressed air energy storage tailored for storage-grid integration. They were granted 102 invention patents (including one from the United States) and published China’s first industry standard for compressed air energy storage, submitted one national standard, and prepared 18 standards, laying the foundation for a comprehensive non-combustion compressed air energy storage standard system.
On May 26, 2022, the National Energy Administration’s energy storage demonstration project, Jiangsu Jintan 60MW/300MWh salt cavern compressed air energy storage station, was officially put into operation under the leadership of Professor Mei Shengwei. This is the world first commercially operated non-combustion compressed air energy storage station with an electric-to-electric efficiency of 61.22% (compared to 55% for the combustion-based McIntosh station in US). The station has participated in Jiangsu’s “peak shaving in summer” for two consecutive years, contributing a total of 120 million kilowatt-hours of peak shaving, effectively supporting the safe and stable operation of the power grid.
A committee of experts, including academicians Zhou Xiaoxin and Wang Qiuliang, assessed the project as having achieved original and significant results, having established a national demonstration project, and reaching an international leading level. The team has received the First Prize for Technological Progress in Anhui Province, the Gold Award at the Geneva International Invention Exhibition, and the Special Award for Technical Inventions from the China Electrical Technology Society (the only special award since the society’s founding 42 years ago). Professor Mei Shengwei, the team leader, was also honored with the inaugural Gao Jingde Science and Technology Achievement Award in 2022 (only two recipients nationwide). The related achievements have been selected for exhibition by the Central Propaganda Department and the National Development and Reform Commission under the theme “Advancing in the New Era” and the “Leading Technology Achievement List” of the China Association for Science and Technology.
Over more than a decade of continuous innovation, the team achieved complete domestic production of core equipment for non-combustion compressed air energy storage stations, with full independent intellectual property rights. This has provided strong support for the sustainable development of compressed air energy storage and the energy industry in China, establishing the country as a dual leader in technology research and engineering practice in the compressed air energy storage sector. In the future, the team will use the demonstration and application of non-combustion compressed air energy storage technology as a starting point and pivot to make even greater contributions to the realization of China’s dual-carbon goals!