Energy Vault’s storage technology enables renewables to deliver baseload power below the cost of fossil fuels 24 hours a day
Switzerland-based energy storage company Energy Vault has raised $110m (£90.9m) from SoftBank Vision Fund to accelerate growth.
The SoftBank Vision Fund’s injection will help Energy Vault to accelerate global deployment of its utility-scale energy storage technology, which enables renewables to deliver baseload power below the cost of fossil fuels 24 hours a day.
SoftBank Investment Advisers managing partner Akshay Naheta said: “The company’s integration of proven technologies with 21st century material science and machine vision software provides a solution that reshapes the unit economics of renewable energy while being restorative to the environment.”
Energy Vault’s technology is inspired by pumped hydro plants
The company said that its technology was inspired by pumped hydro plants, which rely on the power of gravity and the movement of water to store and discharge electricity.
The firm said in a statement: “The company’s solution is based on the same well-understood fundamentals of physics and mechanical engineering used in those plants, but replaces water with custom made composite bricks through an innovative use of low-cost materials and material science.”
Weighing 35 metric tonnes each, the bricks are combined with Energy Vault’s proprietary system design and machine vision software to operate a newly designed crane.
Using predictive intelligence, the software autonomously orchestrates the energy storage tower and electricity charge/discharge.
It also utilises a unique stack of proprietary algorithms that account for a variety of factors, including energy supply and demand volatility, grid stability, weather elements and other variables.
Energy Vault CEO and co-founder Robert Piconi said: “As we pursue our mission to enable renewable energy to replace fossil fuels 24 hours a day, we’re thrilled to partner with SoftBank Vision Fund as we expand our global presence.
“The Vision Fund shares our passion to combat climate change through innovation in energy storage technologies and, with its support as a strategic partner, Energy Vault is well positioned to meet the large and currently unmet demand for sustainable and economical energy storage worldwide.”
Energy Vault is planning to demonstrate the first 35MWh storage tower in the north of Italy in 2019.
Last year, Energy Vault secured an order from Tata Power, an integrated power company in India, to deploy 35MWh energy storage system in 2019.
A simple guide to how the Energy Vault system works
According to news website Quartz, the system comprises a 120m six-armed crane in the centre of the ‘tower’ and a large number of concrete ‘bricks’.
When the tower is in a discharged state, the 35-tonne concrete bricks are stacked far below the crane’s arms.
During times of excess wind or solar power, computer algorithms send one or more of the arms to locate a ‘brick’ with the help of onboard cameras.
When located, the crane arm hooks-up the block and a motor, powered by the excess electricity on the grid, hoists the brick and places it higher off the ground at the top of the stack.
The system becomes fully charged when the crane is surrounded by a tower of the concrete bricks.
When power in the grid is running low, the motors deconstruct the tower, but the motor is now driven in reverse by gravitational energy — creating electricity.
The process can then start over.