Storing large amounts of energy is key to using more renewable energy because the wind does not always blow and the sun does not always shine.
One new method of energy storage uses gravity. The Energy Vault is a giant tower with a crane at its center and thousands of massive stackable bricks, each weighing more than a fully loaded school bus.
“We utilize excess solar energy when it’s produced and not needed – or excess wind,” says CEO Robert Piconi. “And that drives these motors on the crane that allow us to lift and stack these composite bricks.”
Piconi says when energy is needed, the process is reversed. The bricks are lowered to the ground on cables. As they fall, they release kinetic energy, which is converted to electricity. Then when excess energy is available again, the tower is rebuilt.
Piconi says an Energy Vault can be installed almost anywhere. The bricks are made on-site from soil that’s excavated when the system is built, or even from local waste materials like used concrete.
“We wanted something scalable. We didn’t want environmental impacts,” he says.
This year, systems are being built in India and Switzerland. Piconi says that as the technology spreads, it can help elevate the use of clean energy.
Reporting credit: Stephanie Manuzak/ChavoBart Digital Media.