Gravity-Based Energy: China Increases Scope of Groundbreaking Project

China has signed agreements to deploy an additional 5 gravity-based energy storage systems, bringing the total project scope in this ground-breaking technology to an estimated $1 billion, according to Energy Vault, the developer. The US-based company revealed that China Tianying, a power group, is set to deploy an additional 1.2 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of capacity across 5 provinces, supplementing the previously announced 2.1 GWh.

Energy Vault’s technology revolves around the use of “storage towers” constructed from custom-designed bricks, emulating the gravity-based principles of large-scale pumped-hydro storage but at a lower cost and without the need for water or specific geographic features. Instead of water, large bricks are hoisted by cranes to store energy and released for discharge, controlled by custom-designed software.

China Tianying’s cumulative investment in these projects now reaches an estimated $1 billion, as per Energy Vault’s calculations.

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The company is currently in the process of commissioning its first large-scale system, a 100-megawatt-hour (MWh) system adjacent to a wind farm in Rudong near Shanghai.

This milestone project is a result of collaboration between Energy Vault, Atlas Renewable Energy, a Latin American investment vehicle, and China Tianying, and is being hailed as a “world first.”

Energy Vault anticipates benefiting from Chinese regulations that mandate renewable energy facilities to incorporate storage equivalent to 20% of their generation capacity, with a minimum duration of 2 to 4 hours.

Furthermore, the company is banking on the advantages of using locally sourced materials to manufacture its bricks, thus capitalising on the benefits of local content.

China Tianying’s chairman, Yan Shengjun, emphasised the rapid expansion of this ground-breaking technology, which enables intermittent wind and solar power to replace fossil fuel-based generation, thereby facilitating China’s clean energy transition and the achievement of its net carbon-neutral objectives.

Energy Vault’s Chief Commercial Officer, Marco Terruzzin, highlighted the potential increase in fire incidents due to the growing deployment of lithium-ion battery systems. The new gravity based system could offer a safer and more effective alternative.

Energy Vault claims that these recent agreements demonstrate the growing significance of gravity-based systems as a long-duration energy storage solution in the world’s largest renewable energy market, alongside the dominant pumped-hydro technology.