New energy storage product uses kinetic energy and concrete bricks to store/discharge energy

Energy Vault, an Idealab company that develops renewable energy storage products, today announced the commercial availability of its energy storage solution. Based on the principles that underpin traditional gravity-based pumped hydro plants, the new technology combines conventional physics fundamentals of potential and kinetic energy with a proprietary, cloud-based software platform to operate a newly developed six-arm crane. The crane operation is fully automated and moves massive concrete bricks that provide the basis for the efficient storage and discharge of electricity.

The innovative use of low-cost and environmentally-friendly waste-debris-concrete materials enables the Energy Vault system to achieve significantly lower cost per kilowatt-hour and high round trip efficiency while delivering a 30- to 40-year life without any degradation in storage capacity. The company also announced a technology and commercial partnership with CEMEX Research Group AG that will focus on material applications which include the optimization of various concrete based composite materials that will support Energy Vault’s system deployments globally.

Energy Vault’s technology was 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. The large bricks are combined with Energy Vault’s patented system design and proprietary algorithm-based software, which calibrates the energy storage tower and electricity charge/discharge while accounting for a variety of factors including power supply and demand volatility, weather and wind. As a result, the company can deliver all the benefits of a pumped hydro system, but at a much lower price, higher round trip 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% full power achieved in 2.9 seconds, supporting critical Ancillary Services (spinning reserve, frequency response, black start, etc.)
  • Roundtrip efficiency of ~90%; zero storage degradation over time with no energy loss; >30 year lifetime with unlimited cycles
  • Ultra-low cost – ~50% below existing solutions on a $/kwh basis, ~80% 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 off-grid 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 is cost/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, a Swiss subsidiary of Mexico-based CEMEX, 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 energy storage solution. The collaboration also includes a focus on carbon and CO2 reduction methodologies given the role that utility-scale energy storage will now play in enabling various renewable energy technologies.

“Energy Vault’s team has developed a disruptive platform, and we are enthusiastic to work with their team to deploy an environmentally efficient and cost effective energy storage solution that is highly viable,” said Dr. Davide Zampini, Head of CEMEX Global R&D and IP. “We share a common commitment to enable a future where resources are used responsibly, which is paramount to CEMEX’s strategy for sustainable development.”

“Innovation in energy storage represents the largest and most near term opportunity to accelerate renewable deployments and bring us closer to replacing fossil fuels as the primary source to meet the worlds’ continual growth in energy demand”, said Bill Gross, founder, Idealab, and co-founder, Energy Vault.  “We’re excited to support Energy Vault in bringing this groundbreaking technology to the market.”

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

The announcement is being made at the Energy Storage North America (ESNA) conference at which Bill Gross, Energy Vault’s cofounder and the founder and chairman of Idealab, will deliver a keynote address later today.

News item from Energy Vault

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