Innovative Energy Storage Using Gravity & Concrete
As the world is turning more to renewable energy, one of the key issues is how to store excess renewable energy to use at a later time when it would not be directly available. A Swiss company, Energy Vault, has put a twist on an old principle in gravity based pumped hydro plants, using a crane to stack large blocks of concrete when there is excess energy, then when there was a need for energy, the crane picks up the blocks letting gravity descend them slowly to the ground, turning a generator to produce electricity.
This simple low-tech kinetic energy system is an alternative to batteries, which require a lot of energy to produce, and battle with diminishing efficiency and environmentally safe disposal challenges.
The company boasts a 30-40 year life without any degradation in storage capacity which outweighs battery storage systems.
This concrete system is beneficial as it does not rely on an abundance of water like the hydrodams, and can store excess energy generated from solar panels for use when the sun isn’t shining, or wind for turbines when the wind is not blowing.
As for the materials used, the system uses waste debris concrete, which is vital, as the production of new concrete produces large amounts of CO2 which would negate any benefit of storing renewable energy in favour of non-renewable energy.
The real test will be how much energy is able to be stored in this process and whether it is worth the large setup. Regardless, it is encouraging to see the array of innovative proposals to deal with sustainable energy production, storage and usage.
Head to the Energy Vault website for more information on the system: https://energyvault.ch/