Industry News

Could cement and physics hold the key to a reliable green energy future?

By:NSW ERKH. Date: Friday, February 01, 2019.

Could cement and physics hold the key to a reliable green energy future?

 

Applying conventional physics fundamentals, a new energy storage solution employs a huge six-arm crane that lifts massive concrete bricks to orchestrate the storage and discharge of electricity.


Renewables have struggled to more fully replace fossil fuel power due to production unpredictability and intermittency from reliance on factors such as wind and sunlight. In the absence of more efficient and cost-effective storage, the amount of electricity that can be delivered to the grid from renewable energy sources, even though now widely affordable, has been limited.

Swiss start-up Energy Vault have announced the development of breakthrough technology inspired by pumped hydro plants that rely on the power of gravity and the movement of water to store and discharge electricity. The company’s solution is based on the same well-understood fundamentals used in those plants, but replaces the water with custom made concrete bricks through an extremely innovative use of low-cost materials. 

These large bricks are combined with Energy Vault’s patented system design and proprietary algorithm-based software, which calibrates the energy storage and subsequent electricity discharge while accounting for a variety of factors, including power supply, energy demand volatility, and weather. As a result, the company can deliver all the benefits of a pumped hydro system, but at a much lower price, higher roundtrip efficiency and without the requirement for specific land topography and negative environmental or wildlife impacts.

The system specifications and attributes include:

  • 35 MWh nominal energy capacity and 4 MW peak power; can be modulated as required
  • Millisecond response ramp time with 100 percent full power achieved in 2.9 seconds, supporting critical Ancillary Services (spinning reserve, frequency response, black start, etc.)
  • Roundtrip efficiency of ~90 percent; zero storage degradation over time with no energy loss; >30-year lifetime with unlimited cycles
  • Disruptive economics – ~50 percent below existing solutions on a capex $/kWh basis, ~80 percent lower when factoring in system life, operating, maintenance and replacement cost on a levelized cost of storage (LCOS) basis
  • Environmental sustainability of all materials through the product lifetime with utilization of debris materials that would otherwise be required to be land-filled.

Further bolstering its eco-friendly advantages over existing chemical storage solutions is the fact that Energy Vault’s storage conduit – the large concrete bricks – do not degrade over time and therefore eliminates the need for replacement equipment. Future systems will roughly double the amount of MWh energy storage capacity and peak power discharge while continuing to significantly reduce the cost.

Platform flexibility is one of the most critical investment criteria for energy providers, and the Energy Vault system was developed to be suitable for both “in front of the meter” and “behind the meter” applications. It can also be paired with renewable generation like solar PV for offgrid and microgrid solutions, allowing commercial and industrial customers to maximize their renewable power usage and delivering on the promise of reliable 24 hour a day power to remote towns and villages in emerging markets.

“The world needs rapidly scalable and sustainable energy storage solutions to meet one of the most urgent challenges – the need to decarbonize our energy generation – and we’re thrilled to launch Energy Vault’s unique technology to help solve this problem,” said Robert Piconi, chief executive officer and co-founder, Energy Vault. 

“In addition to the vital environmental benefits that it provides, the system’s radical reduction in $kWh and overall levelized cost of storage enables our customers to provide dispatchable and baseload power cheaper than fossil fuels for the very first time. We’re also excited to begin our important collaboration with CEMEX whose innovation in material composite technologies and global footprint will help accelerate achieving our collective sustainability goals.”

Energy Vault’s new technology collaboration and development agreement with CEMEX Research Group AG (Switzerland) will enable joint technology teams to focus on material applications which include the optimization of various concrete and soil composite materials that form an integral part of Energy Vault’s storage solution. The collaboration also includes a focus on carbon and CO2reduction methodologies given the role that utility-scale energy storage will now play in enabling various renewable energy technologies.

As part of its efforts to rapidly bring projects to market, Energy Vault has initial agreements with customers on multiple continents.

To read more about Energy Vault and their new technology, go to their website here. 




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