Concrete Blocks Used for Power Storage


In response to increasing demand for energy storage solutions that can balance the difference between energy production and consumption, Swiss startup Energy Vault has created a crane that lifts and stacks blocks in a way that it says serves as a kind of battery.

The design, developed by U.S. entrepreneur Bill Gross and Swiss inventor Andrea Pedretti, features a 120-meter (nearly 400-foot) tall, six-armed crane.

Crane Battery

The crane, when in a discharged state, has concrete cylinders weighing 35 metric tons standing around its base. During a period of excess power, generated either by wind or sun, a computer algorithm guides crane arms to locate and attach to a specific block. Using the excess energy, a motor lifts the block and places it on top of the stack. The system is considered fully charged when the crane has created a tower of the blocks around itself.

At full scale, a tower can store 20 megawatt-hours, which is enough to power 2,000 Swiss homes for a day. To generate energy, the motor is driven in reverse by gravity.

According to Quartz, the most expensive part of the venture would likely be the concrete blocks. Even though the blocks would be cheaper than a lithium-ion battery, a lot of concrete would be required to make even one of the blocks. As a solution, Pedretti created a machine that mixes materials cities are looking to get rid of—namely gravel or building waste.

The current model is a 20-meter-tall, single-armed crane equipped with blocks that each weigh 500 kilograms each. Robert Piconi, CEO of Energy Vault, surmises that once the company has built its 10th plant, if not more, it can bring energy costs down to about $150 per kWh.

While traditional batteries do have some inherent limitations—a lithium-ion battery has a maximum life 20 years—Energy Vault’s crane can function for up to 30 years with little maintenance.


Tagged categories: AF; AS; Asia Pacific; concrete; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Energy efficiency; EU; Latin America; NA; North America; OC; Program/Project Management; Project Management; SA; Solar energy

Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.