Gravity energy storage gets a boost

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Aramco through its venture capital arm Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures invests in Switzerland based gravity storage developer Energy Vault.

The investment reflects the ongoing move of the oil companies to diversify their interests as the world shifts towards renewables. Energy Vault intends to use the funds to accelerate global deployment of its technology, which is designed to enable intermittent renewable energy generation to be stored at GW-hour scale to deliver dispatchable power on demand.

Energy Vault’s technology, like that of the other developers such as Gravitricity which is at a near similar level of development, essentially involves the ‘storage’ of energy in raised blocks and its release in their dropping.

Energy Vault’s blocks of 35t are claimed sustainable as composites based on waste and other low cost materials including soil and sand. These are combined with the company’s proprietary system design and artificial intelligence enabled software to operate a specially designed crane which uses proprietary technology to autonomously orchestrate the lifting and lowering of the blocks.

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The first 5MW/35MWh commercial-scale system achieved mechanical completion near the company’s headquarters in Lugano in southern Switzerland in July 2020, concurrent with its connection to the country’s national grid.

“Our mission at Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures is to invest in companies developing technologies with strategic importance to Aramco,” says CEO Mahdi Aladel.

“Energy Vault’s innovative energy storage technology has unique environmental and economic benefits. We are excited to help Energy Vault further accelerate the global deployment of its technology.”

Energy Vault says that over the last two years it has worked closely with large utility and energy companies to further optimise its storage technology platform to be more flexible and address both higher power and variable duration needs. The outcome is the EVx product, which offers a scalable and modular architecture that can be built out in 10MWh increments to scale to multi-GW-hour storage capacity in a building form rather than a tower.

The tower design offers power discharge in the 8-16 hour range, while EVx allows deployments for both high power/shorter duration needs from 2-6 hours in addition to the longer duration storage applications.

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