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Energy storage is becoming a critical question when it comes to renewable energy. Swiss startup, Energy Vault, has significant and concrete plans to tackle the problem.
The two-year-old company has put forward their idea of building huge concrete blocks that could store renewable energy.
This year, the company received a substantial investment from SoftBank, a Japanese holding company.
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Energy Vault received $110 million in investments from SoftBank just this past August. The investment will keep the Swiss company moving forward in their unique approach to storing renewable energy: through stacked concrete blocks.
Interest in renewable energy has been on the rise for a while, and recently, methods on how to store this energy have been increasing in number.
Solar panels and wind turbines don't gather energy all the time. Solar panels can only gather energy when the sun is shining, and wind turbines only operate when there is enough wind.
This is when Energy Vault comes in. Solar panels in a sunny country would gather the energy and 'send' it to Energy Vault's storage facility. This way, there would be enough energy available even on cloudy days. The same would happen for wind turbines and storing their power from the wind.
How does Energy Vault plan to store energy?
The company's storage facility looks like this: an almost 120 meter- (400 foot-) tall, six-armed crane of custom-built concrete blocks. Each block weighs 35 metric-tons each.
Solar or wind energy is siphoned into one of these tower blocks, and then AI informs the concrete blocks to rise up.
Following this, the blocks are then "returned to the ground, and the kinetic energy generated from the falling brick is turned back into electricity," as per the company's own description.
A motor rotates, thanks to the kinetic energy that goes through an inverter, which sends the energy back to the grid.
There are different options being considered by Energy Vault, which include 20, 35, and 80 MWh storage capacity. There would be between four to eight MW of continuous power discharge for eight to 16 hours.
Thanks to the system being so simple and clear, SoftBank was drawn to investing in the company's plans.
— ISA Interchange (@ISA_Interchange) September 20, 2019
"We at the Vision Fund want to come in when a technology is proven, and it’s ready to scale. That’s what’s so exciting about this technology. It’s not a science problem. It’s fifth-grade physics," said Akshay Naheta, a managing partner of SoftBank's Vision Fund.
We have yet to see a full-scale prototype from Energy Vault, but thanks to SoftBank's investment, we may now see one in the near future.