A bet on the Earth’s attractiveness for storing renewable energy

A bet on the Earth's attractiveness for storing renewable energy

Renewable electricity storage is one of the major challenges of energy transformation. The Ticino company Energy Vault has embarked on a rather crazy project and is proposing to bet on earthly attraction.

In Bellinzona (TI), a demonstration electric battery is installed in the ground. Its principle, gravity storage, interests the whole world. The system must make it possible to overcome the handicap of renewable energies: their intermittency.

“When there is an excess of solar or wind energy in the grid, we use it to turn the engines and lift our 30-ton blocks. It’s a bundle of potential energy that is then deposited at the top of the tower,” Robert said. Piconi, CEO of Energy Vault.

And to continue his explanation at 7.30pm: “When the grid needs electricity, we run the blocks. Their weight drives the motors, which then produce the electricity we supply to the grid. Everything is controlled by software.

Not new, but …

The principle of using the Earth’s attraction to store energy is not new. Others have already thought about it and use it extensively with water. It is a pumped storage hydroelectric power plant, which is located in some dams.

In the previous case, however, there is a problem: not everyone is lucky enough to go to the mountains. So on a smaller scale, the Energy Vault system is marketable.

“We achieve one of the lowest storage costs because we use gravity, blocks that do not degrade and that offer our customers very low operating and maintenance costs,” continues Robert Piconi.

High interest

On a larger scale, the company offers real storage buildings. And interest in this technology is growing, especially in the United States, Australia and Saudi Arabia. A project with a capacity of 100 MWh will also be launched in China this year.

The Energy Vault, listed on the stock exchange since February, is powered by the climate context, but also by the political context in the face of fossil resources. The company has received several hundred million francs of investment in its system.

“Today we see that these resources may no longer be available. This creates an urgent need to ensure the availability of renewable alternatives,” said Ticino, the CEO.

Pascal Jeannerat / Nicole Della Pietra / jfe

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