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Gravity powered concrete batteries are the latest energy storage solution

09/11/2018
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When it comes to the power industry, generating electricity is only half the battle. While renewable sources like solar and wind can produce more than you need when conditions are right, that excess energy needs to be stored for a rainy (or still) day.

The cost of storing large amounts of electricity is huge, but Swiss company Energy Vault has now developed an innovative solution combining structural complexity with basic physics. 

Energy Vault has designed a tower of concrete blocks that can store energy as gravitational potential
(Image via Energy Vault)

Their design is a tower of concrete blocks that can be dropped by a crane to generate kinetic energy, which is converted in to usable electricity.

These ingenious “batteries” work in a fairly simple way. The excess energy created by solar or wind farms is used to power a six armed crane which lifts concrete blocks to roughly the height of a 35 storey building. When needed, the cranes can lower the blocks back to the ground, using the kinetic energy gathered from the descent to generate electricity. 

Numerous concrete blocks are lifted by cranes using power from renewable sources, then lowered to generate kinetic energy
(Image via Energy Vault)

Essentially the energy isn’t so much “stored” as used to power the cranes which, by raising the blocks, convert it in to gravitational potential energy to be unleashed when the blocks fall. But from this system, Energy Vault claim that the round trip of each block has an energy efficiency of about 90 percent. 

Depending on the size of the tower and number of blocks used, the company claim they can have a capacity of between 10MWh and 35MWh. Because the system purely relies on gravity there are no peak times or optimal conditions, and it can be built anywhere. 

The blocks are 90% energy efficient - producing almost as much energy by falling as it takes to lift them
(Image via Energy Vault)

Unlike chemical storage systems, the energy stored won’t leak or degrade over time - the blocks could be raised indefinitely and still release the same amount of power when they’re lowered. The concrete blocks are “custom designed” to weather exposure to the elements for a long time, with the company estimating each tower’s lifespan of 30-40 years. 

With only construction and basic maintenance required, the solution can save up to 80% of the costs of other storage systems over the lifespan of the tower.

The towers can store up to 35MWh of energy. The first system has already been ordered by Indian power giant Tata.
(Image via Energy Vault)

The design has already convinced Indian power company Tata who have ordered a full system of the 35MWh towers, and Mexican building materials company CEMEX who have entered in to a strategic partnership with the company. 

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Gravity powered concrete batteries are the latest energy storage solution - Time to read 3 min
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