A Swiss start-up has developed a simple but surprising idea to store energy that comes from renewable sources. It consists of enormous blocks of concrete a bit like Lego!
An ingenious and economical system
The Swiss start-up Energy Vault launches it’s new low cost system for storing energy which can be seen in the 3D simulation video at the bottom of this article. The first commercial contract for this system, which is able to to inject electricity into it’s network in less than three seconds, was finalised with the Indian giant Teta Power.
Wind or solar energy installations can be connected to a sort of concrete block tower for 35 minutes and 3 seconds and then lifted up and down by six armed cranes. The tower, which is 120 metres high, is fitted with a turbine that works thanks to the kinetic energy that is produced. Therefore when too much energy is produced the blocks are hoisted to the top and when there is a need for energy other blocks will descend.
Everything is expertly managed by an algorithm that is able to calculate in real time where each block should be placed. It is also able to work our the ideal storage level depending on several factors such as demand forecasts, weather conditions or electricity prices.
Economical and environmental
In the last ten years, there has been a greater calibre of renewable energies, which will make up a good part of energy production. The problem is that wind and solar power are intermittent forms of energy which is why storage solutions are a key element in effectively producing energy. This is an area that needs to be improved which is why Energy Vault’s invention is very interesting.
The Swiss start-up has stated that their concept requires no costly material or pollutant like lithium or platinum. It simply uses concrete used from construction waste. Above all, this system losses little energy retaining 90% of the yield, it has a lifetime of more than 40 years and operates at a maximum level in all weathers.
A first station has already been installed for Tata Power, whose capacity is 35 MWh for a power between 2 and 5 MW. Lastly, a collaboration project has been agreed with the cement manufacturer Cemex so as to develop a special cement for this type of energy storage system.