Pioneering technology developed by Swiss start-up Energy Vault could revolutionise renewable energy and provide power for homes of the future.
Energy Vault’s autonomous system combines proprietary software and a six-arm crane to move blocks of concrete in response to changes in energy production and demand.
By moving the blocks around, the system offers a cost effective eco- friendly storage solution, offering greater longevity than storing energy through battery power and more diversity than pumping hydroelectricity.
A computer guides a crane arm to a block, then the motor in the crane uses power from the electricity grid to lift it into place, eventually creating a stack around the crane. When the grid needs power, the motor runs in reverse to release electricity back into the grid that it stored while lifting the blocks.
Energy Vault say that the system could store 20 megawatt-hours, enough to power 2,000 homes for a day. They believe this new technology overcomes the problem of intermittent supply which renewable energy sources like wind and solar have because they rely on storage for later use.
Power to the grid at peak times
Energy Vault co-founder and CEO Robert Piconi said: “Renewable energy could reliably power the grid at peak times.
“The world needs rapidly scalable and sustainable energy storage solutions to meet one of the most urgent challenges — the need to decarbonise our energy generation.”
Energy Vault recently said it was making its new technology commercially available to coincide with a new partnership with the Indian powerhouse, Tata Power, to build a 35 megawatt-hour system, its first plant in 2019.
The company claim its system is more efficient and cost-effective than solar or hydro power, offering savings of 50% or more over existing solutions. The blocks are made with waste concrete, and the lifetime of one plant is upwards of 30 years.
The benefit to the environment comes from not requiring the problems associated with chemical storage solutions, which degrade over time and involve the manufacture of new batteries. Unlike hydro energy, this innovative system does not require a specific topography.
A tower of energy moving across the globe
Working on the same principle as a pumped hydroelectric plant, which stores electricity as gravitational potential energy, Energy Vault’s system replicates that effect with 35-tonne bricks, stacking them into a tower when electricity is abundant and releasing them to generate energy.
Energy Vault already has agreements with customers across the globe and is working with CEMEX Research Group AG to develop and deploy the technology rapidly.
With so many new homes needed, and more power needed to feed the kind of technology used increasingly in everyday life, Energy Vault’s solution could provide an innovative solution.