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
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.
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.