Simple tech could store energy by lifting and dropping giant bricks

October 13, 2021
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We’ve previously written about how gravity can serve as an incredible ally in our quest to find viable solutions to storing excess renewable energy. Now, using a similar principle, Swiss startup Energy Vault has come up with a simple technology that can collect excess energy by lifting giant bricks with cranes — and dropping them when demand is high.

Though relatively basic, the concrete battery setup is pretty ingenious: First, cranes use excess energy to stack 35-metric ton bricks upon one another to create a 35-story tower. When energy demand is high, the cranes let the blocks fall, powering a generator and thus producing electricity.

The simple process is similar to hydroelectric power, where energy is stored by pumping water uphill to a reservoir and is recovered by letting that water flow and turn turbines connected to a generator.

Energy Vault recently secured $100 million in series C funding for its bold vision. Now it plans to scale up its demonstration plant, which is only one-tenth the size of a commercial unit.

Larger versions are expected to include 120-meter-tall cranes that would lift blocks weighing 35 metric tons each, with the potential to store 20 megawatt-hours of energy — enough to power 2,000 Swiss homes or a day.

The company plans to deploy its brick-dropping platform across the US, Middle East, Europe, and Australia.

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