A Concrete Plan to Save Planet Earth: Renewable Energy Restored

By Energy CIO Insights | Monday, February 25, 2019

In today’s world where renewable energy is becoming the pioneer in energy sources, finding the most suitable storage system is imminent, one that can be called upon, regardless of circumstances. Innovating better energy storage system is crucial, and the new concrete method, as the scientists have come to call it, seems outstanding. When an object is lifted against gravity, energy gets stored in it. Later when it falls, the same energy can be retrieved. Since concrete is much denser than water, a block of concrete being lifted could store and supply a lot more power than a similar sized tank of water.

Thanks to Bill Gross, an entrepreneur and Andrea Pedretti, a Swiss inventor who developed the energy vault system that is providing a new angle to how renewable energy is produced and stored. A 400 foot tall, six armed crane stands at the center. Concrete cylinders, each weighing 35 metric tons is stacked around the crane far below the arms in its discharged state. When an excess of wind or solar power is generated, an algorithm commands one or more crane arms to screen and locate a concrete block with the help of cameras that are attached to the trolley of the cranes. Once a block is found and hooked, a motor powered by the excess electricity lifts the block. The crane with its programming counters the oscillatory movement of the pulley due to any natural cause. Thus, the blocks are smoothly lifted and stacked, one on top of the other—higher up off the ground. After the crane creates a concrete block tower around it, we know that the system is fully charged. A total of 20 megawatt-hours (MWh) can be stored in that tower, powering 2000 Swiss homes for a whole day.

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Energy vault plants can function for over 30 years with almost no fade capacity and maintenance, cutting costs by using off-the-shelf commercial hardware. But, the concrete blocks are the most expensive part of this system. Thus, Pedretti unwrapped a different solution. Instead of using costly concrete, collecting building waste or gravel, mixed along with cement creates low-cost concrete blocks.

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