Meet the Startup Aiming to Turn Skyscrapers Into Clean Energy Batteries
Edinburgh-based startup Gravitricity has developed a unique energy battery system that, unlike conventional battery systems, can operate for decades without any reduction in performance.
The falling cost of ever-maturing clean energy systems is well documented. Data shows that the costs for renewable energy technologies fell to a record low in 2018; and by next year, both solar PV and onshore wind farms will be cheaper to develop than the lowest cost fossil fuel-based alternative. And these cost reductions are likely to continue into the next decade.
Of course, energy storage technologies will need to keep pace with the explosion of generating capacity to help balance variable supply and demand. Systems will be used in complex ways, and energy storage will increasingly become a “practical alternative to new-build generation or network reinforcement,” according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
It is in solving the green-energy supply-demand conundrum that Charlie Blair hopes his technology will play a key role.
His Edinburgh-based startup, Gravitricity, has developed a unique energy battery system that works by raising a number of heavy weights in a deep underground shaft, and then releasing them when energy is needed.
The weights, totalling up to 12,000 tonnes, are suspended in a deep cavity by cables attached to winches. When there is excess electricity — on a windy day, for example — the weight is winched to the top of the shaft ready to generate power. The weights can then be released in less than a second, with the winches acting as generators to produce either a large burst of electricity quickly, or releasing it more slowly depending on what is required.
Its 24MWh system — comprising 24 weights of 500 tonnes — could power 63,000 homes for one hour.
According to Blair, who has submitted four patents for Gravitricity (two have been accepted for grant and two are still being examined), his system can be operational for decades without any reduction in performance, unlike battery systems.