Energy Vault, an innovative company based in Switzerland, attracted global attention when it received $110 million in funding from the Japanese investing firm SoftBank.
Energy Vault has adopted a unique approach to storing renewable energy through stacked concrete blocks. With the financial backing of SoftBank, the company will now construct its two full-fledged models in India and Italy.
Global Need for Energy Storage Methods
While the company was founded just two years ago, it has already got several investors interested because of the growing need for energy storage solutions.
As the prices of renewable energy decline while their usage expands, the demand for energy storage is on the rise. The challenge with renewable is that wind turbines and solar panels are dependent on weather conditions, and this is where companies like Energy Vault come in.
For instance, when solar panels in a park in Italy start generating energy, they would reserve a part of their output and send it to Energy Vault’s storage facility. Once the surplus energy has been stored, the energy company can deliver power even on a cloudy day and with more storage capacity this just means more power will be available regardless of what Mother Nature does.
Energy Vault’s Unique Storage Solution
Energy Vault’s model involves a 400-feet tall crane with custom-built blocks of concrete, each weighing about 35 tons.
Once the excess solar or wind energy is sent to an Energy Vault tower, an artificial intelligence program directs these concrete blocks to rise up. The blocks are then returned to the base, and the kinetic energy produced from the falling block is converted back into electricity.
This electricity then powers a motor, which passes through an inverter, delivering energy back to the grid. According to Energy Vault, the process has about 80 to 90% round trip efficiency. The tower design enables up or down scaling as per the customized needs of a particular location. Storage capacity options of 20, 35, and 80 MWh along with 4 to 8 MW of continuous power discharge for 8 to 16 hours are available.
Investors Fascinated by the Simplicity of the Idea
One of the managing partners at SoftBank’s Vision Fund, Akshay Naheta, says what excited them about Energy Vault’s technology is that it is proven and it is ready to scale. At the same time, it is not rocket science, but simple fifth-grade physics. Although there will be some hiccups with its implementation, but that is primarily a scaling problem, according to SoftBank.
Long Duration Storage
What appears most fascinating to investors in Energy Vault’s plan is its aspect of “long duration storage.” Clearly, the longer a storage facility manages to hold energy, the better it is. That’s because no one knows when the next crisis may strike a particular energy grid (just see what is occurring in California with PG&E now which is actually embarrassing but this is another topic).
Therefore, if the energy can be stored in Energy Vault for months, years or perhaps indefinitely, it is an invaluable solution for the utility companies.
With SoftBank’s new investment, Energy Vault hopes to build a full-scale prototype soon, which promises to revolutionize energy storage in the renewables space.